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The Path of Freemasonry

The Craft as a Spiritual Practice

Published by Inner Traditions
Distributed by Simon & Schuster
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A practical guide to the symbols and rituals of Freemasonry as a path of spiritual development and self-realization

• Shares the history and meaning of Freemasonry and its symbols

• Offers thoughtful explorations of different areas of Masonic experience, drawing on esoteric doctrines and paralleling them with experiences found in daily life

• Provides simple exercises and practices to help internalize and personalize the lessons presented, including dreamwork, journaling, meditation, and prayer

In this practical guide, Mark Stavish details the spiritual lessons and rituals of Freemasonry as a step-by-step path of spiritual development and self-improvement for both Masons and non-Masons, men and women, alike. He explores the history and meaning of Freemasonry and its symbols--from its origins in the Temple of Solomon to the Medieval craft guilds to the Renaissance--and explains how the Craft promotes personal growth through the symbolic building of self and an inner Temple of Wisdom in much the same way that Masonry’s rituals symbolize the building of Solomon’s Temple in accordance with the mystical architectural instructions of Hiram.

Drawing on esoteric doctrines, including the Qabala, alchemy, sacred geometry, John Dee’s angelic magic, and the secrets of the Gothic cathedral builders, each chapter addresses an area of the Masonic experience, paralleling them with experiences each of us finds in our own lives. The author provides simple practices to help internalize and personalize the lessons presented, including dreamwork, journaling, meditation, prayer, and understanding sacred architecture. The author also examines the crafting and use of the spiritual and symbolic tools of Freemasonry, such as the trestle or tracing board and the Chamber of Reflection.

Providing the tools to make the Craft an initiatic experience of self-improvement, the author shows that, ultimately, the Masonic experience is the human quest for self-realization and self-expression, so that we each may find our place in the Temple of Wisdom.

How to Use This Book

While many books explain the rituals and symbols of Freemasonry, none have truly put them in the proper context so that modern men (and women) can understand why they are as important to us today as they were 300 years ago. Freemasonry: Rituals, Symbols & History of the Secret Society shows the reader how to understand the events that gave rise to Freemasonry, why they matter, and how to live a “Masonic” life as a creator, builder, and friend of God and humanity, whether or not you ever wear a Masonic apron.

While this book can be read as an overview of Masonic symbolism and ideas and their relationship to Renaissance and Classical thought, it can and should be used primarily as a work book for self-improvement, for self-improvement is what Masonry, esotericism, and various modern therapies most readers will be familiar with are all about.

1. Have a note book handy and some colored pencils or pens. Write down key ideas and go back to them before reading the next chapter.

2. Read at least one of the books from each chapter’s Suggested Reading list.

3. Pay attention to your dreams as you progress through this book. Read slowly, casually, and allow the ideas to stimulate your creative energies. Practice at least one of the Assignments given at the end of each chapter.

4. Write down ideas, inspirations, and other things that come to you from “out of the blue” as your progress.

5. Begin each reading session with a prayer to the Divine Architect of the Universe, the God of you understanding, to enlighten you on this very special and unique journey.

6. Take what you have learned and put it to use in the world of action. Join a civic group, volunteer some time regularly to a non-political, non-religious cause. Make cash donations as well and see how much you are blessed by helping others, and how much you have to give, only have not realized it.

7. Give thanks daily for the blessings you have, and spend time in meditation and prayer as often as possible.

From Chapter 2: The Temple of Solomon and the Legend of Hiram Abiff Hiram Abiff and the Unique Mythology of Freemasonry

While Masonic initiation and allegory quote liberally from the Jewish scriptures there is in fact little about Masonry that can be historically linked to the Bible. The majority of Masonic ritual is a composite myth or morality tale, created to make a philosophical or moral point rather than an intellectual one. However, since few of the rank and file members of the fraternity are well versed in either religious scriptures or history, this point is often missed, and they will routinely state that Masonry is found in the Bible. It is more accurate to state that the Jewish and later Christian scriptures can be found in Freemasonry. A perfect example of this kind of myth making is in one of the core figures of Freemasonry: Hiram Abiff, the slain grand master around whom the entire Third Degree is devoted, or as A.E. Waite writes in A New Encyclopedia of Freemasonry,

“The Legend of the Master-Builder is the great allegory of Masonry. It happens that his figurative story is grounded in the fact of a personality mentioned in the Holy Scriptures, but this historical background is of accidents and not the essence; the significance is in the allegory and not in any point of history which may lie behind it.” (p. 366-7)

To confound matters, the name Hiram is used twice: Hiram, King of Tyre, and Hiram, the Builder. Together with King Solomon they constitute the three traditional Grand Masters of primitive Freemasonry.

Hiram, King of Tyre

Hiram, King of Tyre was a friend of King Solomon who according to scripture assisted him in building the First Temple, the temple around which all Masonic initiation is predicated. Upon Solomon’s coronation, Hiram sent ambassadors and gifts. Solomon requested King Hiram’s assistance in constructing the temple at Jerusalem, an Hiram in turn sent money, men, and supplies.

It is said that he replied, “I will do all thy desire concerning timber of cedar and timber of fir. My servants shall bring them down from Lebanon unto the sea; and I will convey them by sea in floats, unto the place that thou shall appoint me, and will cause them to be discharged there, and thou shalt receive them; and thou shalt accomplish my desire in giving food for my household.” (1 Kings v. 8.9)

Necessary timber was cut and sent to the sea port of Jaffa, and from there, moved overland to Jerusalem.

In return, Solomon gave extensive wheat and oil to support the labor Hiram had sent, and gave to King Hiram as well twenty cities in the region of Galilee. Apparently, Hiram was not pleased with this gift, and personally visited Solomon to inform him of his displeasure.

Hiram, The Builder

While Hiram, King of Tyre and Solomon, King of Israel play important roles in Masonic mythology, they are behind the scene’s players compared to Hiram Abiff. This Hiram was among the builders sent by the King of Tyre to assist in the construction of the Temple. He is described in Masonic ritual and Jewish scripture as, “a cunning man, endued with understanding” (2 Chronicles 2:13) and, “a widow’s son of the tribe of Naphtali, and his father was a man of Tyre, a worker in brass; and he was filled with wisdom and understanding, and cunning to work all works of brass.” (1 Kings 7:14).

Hiram was responsible for all ornamentation of the Temple. He is referred to as Hiram Abiff, in reference to his high standing both in the court of the King of Tyre and Solomon. Abiff is derived from the Hebrew word for father, or ab, and is a designation of high standing and respect. He was in fact, an advisor and friend to both kings. Huram abif means “Hiram, his father” in Hebrew and is used to make a clear distinction between Hiram the King of Tyre, and his loyal architect and friend, Hiram the Builder, or architect.

This unique use of the name Hiram within Masonry gave rise to the now archaic term Hiramites in reference to Freemasons in general, and those in particular who claimed the Fraternity descended from the architect of the Temple.

The esoteric significance of this is that the Builder constructs two pillars, and it is the Builder himself, as well as Solomon who are both filled with Wisdom (Hockmah) and Understanding (Binah), the two spheres of the Tree of Life that cap the pillars of Jachin and Boaz. On a spiritual level, the two are equal - possibly even unequal, with Hiram being the superior of the two, since it is he who will be slain and the legends of the Craft and its secret wisdom woven around.

“He set up the columns at the portico of the Great Hall; he set up one column on the right and names it Jachin, and he set up the other column on the left and named it Boas. Upon the top of each column there was a lily design. Thus the work of the columns was completed.” (1 Kings 7:21-22)

The columns were decorated with pomegranate designs, signifying fertility and abundance - the original apple of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil from the Garden of Eden. If the Tree of Knowledge could corrupt man and cause his “fall from grace” then the Tree of Life could provide the means of restoring man to his original glory.

From this we see have a peculiar insight into Masonic allegory and its subtle teachings of equality and authority. While the three traditional Grand Masters are all equal in the work, as it takes Solomon’s wisdom to envision the Temple; the King of Tyre’s wealth or strength to construct it; it is the skill of Hiram the Builder who adds beauty to the finished design. Herein lie the three Pillars of Freemasonry -- Wisdom, Strength, and Beauty, symbolized by the three principal officers of a Masonic lodge - the Master, Senior Warden, and Junior Warden. It is these officers that each in turn rules a lodge, directs its work, and initiates new members. If they are absent, no lodge can be opened.

Mark Stavish is a respected authority on Western spiritual traditions. The author of 26 books, published in 7 languages, including The Path of Alchemy and Kabbalah for Health and Wellness, he is the founder and director of the Institute for Hermetic Studies and the Louis Claude de St. Martin Fund. He has appeared on radio shows, television, and in major print media, including Coast to Coast AM, the History Channel, BBC, and the New York Times. The author of the blog VOXHERMES, he lives in Wyoming, Pennsylvania.

“Like a drowsy lion, Freemasonry arouses in the outsider both curiosity and mistrust. This landmark book anatomizes the creature without apology or mystification. At the same time, it summons insiders to revive their moribund craft in all the grandeur of its original mission to humanity. Mark Stavish, whose work is informed by a profound knowledge of esoteric traditions, has earned gratitude from both sides.”

– Joscelyn Godwin, professor of Music Emeritus, Colgate University and coauthor of Symbols in the Wild

“An ideal guide for those beginning their Masonic journey or who have already begun their journey to the East. If you want to build a better life for yourself, to become a ‘Renaissance’ person, then this book will help get you on your way.”

– TJ Bell, °, guitarist for Escape the Fate and founder of Black Earth Spagyrics

“Mark Stavish’s The Path of Freemasonry provides a comprehensive introduction to the Craft--its history, inner structure, beliefs, objectives, rites, and even its symbolically rich language. Unusually, however, it goes far beyond this brief to encompass the broader social and cultural issues surrounding the tradition; and in particular its relationship with, and profound connections to, the occult societies and esoteric currents toward which some of its most respected members have contributed their energy and organizational and ritual know-how. Indeed but for the disciplinary bedrock provided by Freemasonry it is arguable whether there would be a Western esoteric tradition worth talking of. This commendable work provides the reader with an accessible and engaging overview of this subject.”

– Peter Mark Adams, author of The Game of Saturn, Mystai, and The Power of the Healing Field

“Mark Stavish has written a must-read for anyone considering Freemasonry and the esoteric path within it . . . This book will take you on a journey through its unique history, touching upon rituals, symbolism, and diving into the philosophies of its uncharted beginnings and into the modern era. Get ready for a journey and an exciting read into the world’s most venerable fraternity.”

– Erik W. Krogstad 33°, master Masonic scholar, lecturer, and blogger

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