Masonic Officers and the Planets

I recommend that Masons who want to get the most out of this, read HPH Bromwell's "Restoration of Masonic Geometry", John Michell's "City of Revelation", William Stirling's "Canon", and Pike's "Morals and Dogma". I recommend that you meditate on what David Fideler calls, 'the Invocation of Harmony", study something about Sympathetic Magic, and read James Frazer's "Golden Bough".

Temples and Lodges - Models of the Cosmos

It has been suggested by HPH Bromwell, John Michell and others that temples and lodges are essentially models of the Cosmos. What this means is that the people that engage in the ceremonies there, as well as their movements are supposed to symbolize the movements of the celestial bodies. The movements of main concern appear to be the daily and yearly motions of the sun, and the motions of the planets. The following is a brief look at how the Masonic Lodge and the officers there represent these three data sets.

Pike writes on page 304, that "Everything within the Temple was symbolic and the whole structure was intended to represent the Universe". On page 209 he had written, "So in our day every Masonic Lodge represents the Universe. Each extends from the surface of the earth to the Heavens, and from the same to the centre of the globe". This is what is called "the Symbolic Lodge", and not the lodge room.

Bromwell writes (Page 25) "The entire work of the Lodge, even to the character of the actors, whomsoever, engaged in any part thereof, is entirely symbolical". (Page 33), "The work of the Lodge is the exposition of the Divine order; that is the order of the universe - that is Wisdom and Truth, out of which preceeds all order" (Page 49) "The Lodge is a symbolic effigy of the universe and its work must correspond with the work of the Divine and universal order" (Page 87) "It is the order in creation; that is the Divine order, which Masonry celebrates and imitates."

Stirling writes (page 81), "To the Greeks Truth meant the whole cosmic system, accurately and truly deliniated. The Egyptian term 'maat' comes to mind, as well.

Fideler writes that, "The temple was seen as constituting a microcosm and was laid out accordingly". Michell writes that form and dimensions of the temple were determined by reference to the structure of the heavens". He continues,

"Intelligent life was introduced to earth in order that earth itself might be brought to a state of perfection in fulfillment of its cosmic destiny. The Temple provided the model and groundplan on which the work was to proceed."

Bromwell adds the symbolical forms and lines of the Lodge conform to the Equator and the Ecliptic, the lines of the tropics, the meridians and poles, the equinoctial and solstice points, and the apparent course of the sun in both hemispheres, north and south. Bromwell stresses the importance of the conformity of the symbolic forms to the forms of the visible world. Below we see one version of the lodge floor, with astronomical lines indicated.

It should be pointed out that, in terms of seeing the officers as the planetary spheres, that the planet with the most erratic orbit is Mercury, and that while the sun ranges between 23.5 degrees north and south, Mercury can range as far as 30+ degrees N and S. That is, 30 degrees marks the limits of the zodiac belt, which is the area of stars behind the ranging planetary spheres.

That is the reason that Mercury is associated with boundaries, limits, and surveying. What used to be called herms (after Hermes, the Greek version of Mercury) and not called 'surveying monuments'. The point is that the movements of actors intended to represent the planetary spheres, should range within the bounds of Mercury's orbit, or 30 degrees. As you can see, these 30 degree points on a circle are 'proven' with an equilateral triangle or hexagon. The zodiac belt is defined by Mercury's range, and is 360 degrees round; 60:360 or 1:6.

If we look at the dimensions of Noah's Ark, we find them to be 300x50x30 cubits. That is 300 long, 50 wide and 30 tall. 300:50 = 6:1. If we multiply by 6/5, we get 360x60x36. Noah's Ark is defining the same 1:6 ratio as the zodiac belt, and Noah took seven passengers with him. The square of the sun consist of a 6x6 grid of the first 36 numbers.

If you do a web search of the KJV for the word 'triangle' you will not find it there. If you search for the word 'circle', you find it once -

"Isaiah Ch 40:
21 Have ye not known?
22 It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in."

You will recognize this as a description of the Tabernacle in the desert, the court of which was surrounded by a curtain 5 cubits tall. The heavens were 'as a curtain', and the tent was to dwell in. When Jacob had his dream of the ladder, he renamed that place, 'Beth-el", that is, the House of God; because, as he said, surely God is in this place. It had been named 'Luz', or light.

The Tabernacle was built to house the Ark of the Covenant, which was said to be the location of the Presence of the Lord. This earthly presence was given the name Shekinah, and is described as a cube descending from Heaven in Rev Ch 21. As the representative of materiality in general, the Shekinah is symbolized by a square and cube or hexagon. The concealed divinty is symbolized by a triangle.

If you surround Masonic Compasses and Square with a circle, and open the compasses to 60 degrees, you see that they trisect the circle, they describe an equilateral triangle. You can also see that the square is literally half a square. These represent the twin aspects of essence and existence. The numbers 3 and 4 provide the basis for a lot of Masonry as well as Astrology. 3+4 = 7 classic planetary spheres, and 3x4=12 zodiac signs. In architecture, these refer to what was called the 'ad qaudratum' and 'ad trianglulum' forms; meaning by the square and by the triangle.

The Journey of the Soul:

  • According to Greek legend, the soul comes from and returns to the stars via seven planetary spheres; those being Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, the sun, Venus, Mercury and the moon, in order of descent. Adding the stars at the 'top' and the earth at the 'bottom', we get a total of nine spheres. Note that if you replace the sun with the earth, you get the 'correct' order; Sat, Jup, Mars, the earth, Venus and Mercury.

    "And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks, and in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of Man. And he had in his right hand seven stars, and his countenance was as the sun that shineth in his strength." Rew Ch 1: 12-16.

    Since the moon is the last sphere before the soul reaches the earth on its descent, and since the moon rules Cancer, that zodiac sign has been called the Gate of Birth. Also, since Saturn is the last sphere before reaching the stars on its 'return', and since Saturn rules Capricorn, that zodiac signs has been called the Gate of Death.

  • If you know anything about the Kaballistic Tree of Life, you may know that each of the spheres on that is numbered from 1 to 10, and is associated with one of the above 'planets'. 1 is the Throne of God, while 2 is the zodiac, 3 is Saturn, 4 Jupiter, etc. The Tree is a graphic depiction of the legend of the soul's journey.

    Comparing the two above images, you can see that the only essential difference between them is the fact that Saturn's position has been moved from the center line. Remember that Saturn was overthrown by his son Jupiter, just as he overthrew his father Uranus. In that story Saturn castrates Uranus and throws the phallus to the fishes. You will see that the letters of the two names are the same except that the U in Uranus is replaced by a T in Saturn; the T being a phallic symbol.

    Now, Saturn (3) is parallel to the zodiac (2). In Egypt, the sky goddess was Nuit, who was depicted with stars on her body. Saturn was also known as Chronos, or Time. These two represent Space and Time, respectively.

    In the TOL, we see that the sun is surrounded by Jupiter, Mars, Venus and Mercury. Looking at images of the figure of Helios (the sun) we see him being pulled across the sky in a chariot by four horses.

  • In Revelation 6:13 we read that 'the stars of heaven fell to earth', which is a re-statement of the Greek legend that the soul comes from the stars (heavens). In Rev 6:12 we read of the sun and moon. That accounts for four of the nine spheres in the story. Earlier in Chapter 6 we see the four horsemen listed. If you are familiar with Astrological Symbolism, you can easily see that the white horse-man with a bow and crown is Sagittarius (Centaur archer) ruled by Jupiter, the red horse and sword are Mars (God of War) which rules Scorpio, and the black horse and scales are Libra, ruled by Venus. As we are moving backwards through the signs, the pale horse followed by Death and Hell corresponds to Virgo ruled by Mercury.

    Rev 6 contains references to all nine spheres except for Saturn who was overthrown by his son Jupiter, just as Saturn had overthrown his father Uranus.

    If you look at the story of the Royal Arch, you will see where Enoch excavates something with nine arches, and beneath the last of the arches, he deposits a cube engraved with a traingle that has the True Name of God within it. If we add the stars and the earth to the seven classic planetary spheres, we get nine spheres or arcs. The image above from Manley P Hall supposedly shows a Norse Tree of Life with nine spheres and the four directions marked (making 13 'stations').

    If you do an image search for 'royal arch' you will immediately see images showing four banners that are the four standards that stood in the north, east, south and west in the Hebrew camp in the desert.

    In his book, "Restorations of Masonic Geometry" HPH Bromwell suggests that the Masonic Lodge represents in its forms the visible world and that the 'work' there represents, in one signification, the journey of Life. Bromwell recommends that 'as the sun rules the day, so should the Worshipful Master rule and govern his Lodge'. The combination of these two ideas leads to the notion that the Masonic Officers correlate to the planetary spheres of the Greek legend.

    In a section entitled "Astrology" in his book "A New Encyclopedia of Freemasonry", AE Waite speaks of 'a planetary allocation of the officers'. (page 55-6) You will note that Waite is not an astrologer and holds that this notion "comes from an occult source, is arbitrary in assumption, and false in history and reason". Waite maintains that "The Craft Degrees are not to be explained by the hypotheses of Solar Mythology, nor to be illustrated by Astrology, with which Masonry has no connection".

    As you can imagine, a person who presumes that Masonry has no connection to Astrology, would not be moved to accurately explore that symbolism. Looking at Waite's narrative, we see him point to the idea that "The Master answers to Mercury, because its symbols is composed of a circle that typifies spirit, a semi-circle signifying the moon, and a cross representing matter".

    Bromwell writes, "The sun rises in the east. The Worshipful Master is in the east in the Lodge". The WM has been likened to the president of the Lodge. On page 95 of "Journey to the East", Herman Hesse introduces the President of the League - "It was Leo, the former porter and servant, who now stood at the head of the whole League." The sun rules Leo. You may recall that Hiram Abiff is raised by means of a grip of a lion's paw in the Master's Degree.

    So, we can see that the WM represents the sun and not Mercury as Waite suggests. As you can imagine, this throws off all of his other connections. Another thing complicating matters is that lodges in different locations use different officers for their ceremonies. Here is Waite's circa 1920 list. The Senior Warden is the sun the Junior Warden the moon, the Deacons Mars and Venus, and the Inner and Outer Guards are Jupiter and Saturn. Note that the WM is in the east, the SW is in the west and the JW is in the south, and Waite has these as Merc, the sun and the moon.

    Note also that these are the sunrise, noon and sunset positions of the sun in the northern hemisphere. He points out that, "The chief officers, without representing the sun, mark three stages of its diurnal progress", rising, at the meridian and setting. This repeats the fact that the officers are representing three data sets, as I have said before. The following seeks to properly correlate the officers and the planets.

    Above, you can see an image taken from "Duncan's Ritual and Monitor of Freemasonry" (published in 1866). The Worshipful Master is in the east, the Senior Warden is in the west, and the Junior Warden is in the south. Remember that in Egyptian mythology, the soul's journey was depicted as analogous to that of the sun. Sunset represented the soul entering the body (incarnation), and the sun's journey from the 'west to the east' (behind the earth) represented life in the body. In the Herbrew and Islamic traditions, the day begins at sunset. The sun rising in the east, represents the liberation of the soul from the imprisonment of the body. At noon, the sun (soul) returns to its rightful home in the heavens.

    The Hebrews celebrate the beginning of the world at Yom Kippur, close to the September equinox, when the sun dips below the equator (as seen from the northern hemisphere). That ceremony used to take place in the Holy of Holies of the Temple.

    The Passover ceremony and Easter happen near the March equinox. The Hebrew ceremony took place at the fire altar in front of the Temple/Tabernacle. Planet-wise, we know that Mars rules Aries and Venus rules Libra; while the moon rules Cancer and Saturn rules Capricorn where the solstices occur.

    The point is that the soul's journey can be seen as analogous to several natural processes. The Masonic Ritual uses the diurnal (daily) path of the sun as one of its model.

    The Officers:

    Remember that Waite says that the officers mark the diurnal positions of the sun, 'without representing the sun'. That is, we have two systems of symbolism being presented; one being the sun's path, the other being a representation of the planets.

    We will presume, as Bromwell does, that the WM is intended to represent the sun in the east. The Senior Deacon is the messenger of the WM, just as Mercury is the messenger of the gods. It was Mercury who guides the soul on its journey. The Jewel is the Square and Compass with the Sun in the middle.

    The senior deacon is mercury...the senior deacon is the most active officer...he defines the limits of the lodge (up and down the lane)...It is he who defines the journey of the is he traditionally who conducts the candidate during the is he has the widest range...he bears orders from the WM in the east to the SW in the west, and elsewhere about the lodge as he may be directed. He has the widest range of any of the officers.

    The Junior Deacon's Jewel has a Square and Compass with a moon in the center. The JD admits people into the Lodge. As the ceremony represents the journey of Life, the JD corresponds to the Gate of Birth, astrologically. The moon being the next fastest corresponds to the junior deacon....the deacons both together move up and down the lane to collect the passwords.

    The WM opens the 'work', the Senior Warden closes it, and the Junior Warden presides over the repose represented by the noon-time work break. The SW corresponds to Mars, and the JW to Venus, as Mars is energetic and indicates work, while Venus indicates socializing.

    The treasurer and secretary sit in the east on the right and left of the worshipful master...the treasurer and secretary speak their duties during the opening and closing, but only the secretary plays a part in the degree work of candidates. the treasurer has no role in degree work only in the opening and closing of the lodge for regular meetings. typically these offices are occupied by past masters who know the ins and outs of lodge business...These two are 'senior officers'.

    Saturn rules the earth sign of Capricorn, while Jupiter rules Sagittarius. The treasurer is Saturn and the Secretary is Jupiter. The fact that 'the treasurer has no role in degree' reminds us of the fact that Saturn is the only planet not indicated in Rev Ch 6, and the Saturn was deposed by his son Jupiter.

    The Line of Officers:

    What has been called the line of officers, refers to the order in which an individual 'advances' through those positions, starting with the JD and working your way up; since the JD is the first officer. Typically a person who is elected to office starts at the Junior Deacon's station and 5 years later they are the worshipful master. (The Treas. and Sec. are not in the line.)

    The secretary and treasurer sit on either side of the WM and are stationary.These offices are occupied by past masters who know the ins and outs of lodge business. The treasurer (Sat) has no role in degree work only in the opening and closing of the lodge for regular meetings.

    The image above depicts the planets and the days of the week on a heptagram (seven pointed star), to which has been added the seven main officers of the lodge.

    Above we see Duncan's 1866 depiction of the Worshipful Master. Bromwell describes the WM:

    He wears a collar which is of an elliptical form, and its color is celestial blue. This is the circle of the zodiac. The master's collar is studded with stars, representing the planets, which are always to be found within this Zodiacal belt, as seen from the earth, the ground floor of the symbolic Lodge.

    I would add only that the elliptical shape of the (now discarded) collar indicates the path of the planets, and not the zodiac belt. I invite you to look at the image of King Tut's death mask. Notice the elliptical 'collar'.

  • John Michell and the New Jerusalem

    John Michell writes of "a living canon of proportion formed after the perfect model of the cosmos, and reflecting the human mind". Michell suggests that,

    "The most cherished possession of every race was its sacred canon of cosmology, and the temple was itself a canonical work, a model of the national cosmology and thus the social and psychic structure of the people, since in those days the cosmic order was seen as the model for a perfectly harmonious way of life. The inner secrets of this tradition were preserved in the temple, which sheltered and displayed the sacred canon."

    "The myths and sacred histories of every race conform to identical cosmological patterns and monuments all over the world were designed in acordance with one scheme of proportion in units of measurement that were every where the same", according to Michell.

    He writes that the form and dimensions of the temple were determined by reference to the structure of the heavens, but also suggests that the dimensions of individual temples might depend upon which god or spirit that they were dedicated to. Then he says that 'as symbols' there is no difference between the Temple and the New Jerusalem.

    Remember that most temples are rectangles or oblong squares. Both the Temple of Solomon and the Tabernacle in the desert were 1:3 rectangles. Looking in Revelation Ch 21, we see that the New Jerusalem is depicted as cube. There is talk of three gates in the north, three in the east, three in the south, and three in the west.

    Michell writes, "Following the pattern of the New Jerusalem , a circle is inscribed in a square and within the circle is placed a hexagon". The words circle and hexagon are not in the book of Revelation. In spite of this, Michell concludes that the New Jerusalem represented the ideal cosmology of the ancient world, and is the scheme which lies at the foundation of ancient temples and cities, and that it is equivalent to the round Stonehenge, and a figure that he presents (seen below).

    Notice how he has arbitrarily bunched the circles together in groups of three. Now look at an image of an astrology chart below. You can see that it is derived from the floor pattern underneath the WM above. You can see three in the east, south, west and the north. You can also see this as an image of the Hebrew Camp in the desert. The Sanctuary in the middle is bounded at 30 degrees.

    That means that while the planets are depicted on the edges of the chart, it is understood that they reside within the square at the center, where we are looking south with east on our left. This figure 'works' for an interpretation of Rev Ch 21, Michell's does not. The lodge floor depicted above consists of two of these squares, with each on representing a hemisphere of the globe, east and west. The EA and the FC degrees each represent a hemisphere as well; the Ea is the northern hemisphere view, and the FC is the southern hemisphere view, or Cancer and Capricorn. The MM degree represents the equinoxes.

    When we compare Michell to Bromwell, we find Michell's proclamations are usually too general to be useful in anything as rigorous as what we would call Masonic Scholarship. After reading his general statements, we are left with very few particulars.

    According to Michell there was a "mystical code of number which was at the root of all ancient arts and sciences, particularly with the measurements of prehistoric temples and monuments". People had encodified their knowledge of the world in the dimensions of the temple. Then he leaves you with the thought that his illustration above illustrates 'the geometer's image of the ideal cosmology of the ancient world'. The New Jerusalem diagram is but a symbol of the cosmos. Unforunately, the only 'temple' that it resembles is the Stonehenge, and it does NOT WORK for Solomon's Temple, the Tabernacle, or the Symbolic Masonic Lodge.

    Michell waters down his story further by suggesting that:

    "The same standards of number and proportion, by which all the arts and sciences of antiquity were regulated provided poets and story tellers with their themes on which to exercise their individual talents. It is now recognized that ancient myths, including those of Christianity, have an astronomical reference, illustrating the progression of the seasons and the aeons. The origin of cosmogeny must be sought in the numbers of the Temple, which were said to comprehend every aspect of nature."

    Then he just points us to the supposed New Jerusalem graphic and to Revelation Chapter 21, recommending that the recorded dimensions of that reveal it as a symbol of the cosmic canon and a formula for the maintenance of harmonic relationships. Another problem that I have with Michel, is that, in addition to being too general, he tends to mythologize. The idea about harmonic relationships derives from his assertion that every temple represented the squaring of the circle, where the circle was male and the square was female. Unforunately, a circle isn't in Rev 21.

    At one point Michell writes that, "cosmogenies are not derived merely from the stars, they are equally extensions of alchemical language, recording the adventures of metals". He fails to note that each planetary sphere was associated with one of the metals that he speaks of, and that the alchemical language of metals followed that of the planets as gods. The notion that "earth itself might be brought to a state of perfection" is an alchemical notion that relates to the journey of the souls from planetary sphere to sphere.

    We are reminded here of the Masonic ideal of the perfected man and perfected society as the perfect ashlar. But once again, all of that is too general for us to get any idea at all about how it was that temples and lodges were designed and what the officers therein were meant to signify.

    I close by pointing to the main difference between Bromwell's lodge and Michell's temple. For Bromwell, the Mason imitates the order that he sees in the universe, and invokes the Spirit of Harmony, while for Michell, ancient temples were placed in such a way as to control the natural forces. I suggest that these are two very different ceremonial styles.

    You may notice that Michell fails to differentiate between cosmology and cosmogeny. Cosmology is a study the cosmos as it exists, while cosmogeny studies the origin and evolution and structure of the universe. Actually, most cosmogenies are mythic, like we find in the book of Genesis. The stories surrounding the Tree of Life about the descent of matter or the soul are cosmogneies and not cosmological; that is they are not intended as a representative picture of the Universe. The Tree of Life illustrate a mechanism whereby the world and the soul came into being.

    The notion that the soul follows a path that includes the planetary spheres, while it is an astronomy learning tool, does not accurately describe the solar system. That is, the Tree of Life, does not make a good model for the Temple. I recommend that the Tree was developed long after the cosmos was visualized, and that the imagery of the planets associations with numbers and metals was added later (by so-called magicians).

    I will have to disagree with Donald Tyson who edited Agrippa's "Three Books of Occult Philosophy", who suggests that the most important association with the Sepheroth is the series of ten divine names; and that the spheres of heaven are of far less philosophical importance. If you look at those names of God that are associated with the spheres, you will find that they are the planets which were seen as gods. The names that are used are names of the planets as gods. Astronomy comes first in this system.

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