Its a nice day for a White Wedding; a nice day to start again.
Anthropologically intiation is viewed as 'a rite of passage marking entrance into a group'. The verb initiate means to begin or start an action or event. From a religous or magical perspective, an initiation is a rite denoting the beginning of a process of change, that helps mark the stages of life. Think baptism, confirmation, wedding and funeral ceremonies. Philosophically, a system of initiations is designed to introduce the Candidate to a particular body of knowledge, a piece at a time.
Albert Pike reminds us that "Death is the true initiation, to which sleep is the introductory or minor mystery. All initiation is but introductory to the great change of death, pointing out the mental change which ought to precede that renewal of existence".
Initiatory Theater introduces people to images and ideas (symbols and allegories) by means of dramatic presentations, and can be experienced either as a pariticpant or as an observer. Symbols which express or embody a philosophical or scientific principle or function are carefully chosen from the natural world. For instance the agricultural imagery of the harvest death, the planting of seeds, and plants coming to life again is widely used to render a spiritual message of the continual renewal of life.
Joseph Campbell writes, "In the earliest rites associated with plant foods, the typical underlying myth is of a deity who has been killed, cut up and buried; and out of those parts of the deity comes the plant food. The meditation is that we are eating divine substance and this divine substance is what is feeding us; that our life is supported by the giving and yielding of some transcendent power".
In both Masonry and the Mysteries, initiations consist of enactments of dramas which unfold the meaning of the mystery (the doctrine) by means of imitative ceremonies arranged so that the neophyte is gradually instructed in the truths concealed under the nature of the characters, their movements and the events of the play, as well as the form and situation of the symbolic lodge. The meanings of the sacred writings and ceremonies are explained in a system of progrssive of initiations, or as Bromwell puts it:
"In beholding natural and visible things, a person, in ascending the stages of a high tower sees all things differently, and detects the true order of several situations more intelligibly from each successive stage, as in any science where later discoveries add new revelations to the former". The mysteries taught the principles of philosophy and religion combined in a symbolic form so as to reveal to the Candidate the hidden sense in what is said and done in the symbolic ritual displays.
In the three degrees of Fremasonry, once you get passed the handshakes etc, it is all about Geometry and Astronomy. Here I would like to examine the structural parallels that exist between the ritual floor work of the Masonic Degrees, the dramatic representations of the mythical lives of Orpheus and Dionysus that were enacted in ancient Greece mysteries, and the Sema ceremony of the Sufis. I will focus mainly on one aspect of the ritual, circumambulation; as well as on what HPH Bromwell calls 'the form and situation of the symbolic lodge'.
Restorations of Masonic Geometry and Symbolry
It should be added that it is a sociological fact that meanings change, original meanings get lost, and new meanings get substituted, mainly due to traditional meanings and rituals being handled and mishandled by people who only partly understand them. 'Loss and rocovery' is one of the main themes in the Kaballah, along with 'exile and return'. The first relates to the notion of the transmission and preservation of knowledge, and the latter to the legend of the soul's journey. (Concerning the notion of the transmission of knowledge via poems or songs, the authors of "Hamlet's Mill" point out that the word 'transmission' in no way implies understanding on the part of those doing the transmitting.)
Joseph Campbell describes (modern speculative) Masonry as "a scholarly attempt to reconstruct an order of initiation that would result in spiritual revelation"; an exercise in the development of consciousness like meditation, or alchemy. While modern Masonry is modeled on the Mysteries, the legend that is utilized thematically is the captivity of the Hebrews. As the story comes down to us, this was a group whose worship had developed from taking place in tent in the desert to taking place in a stately Temple, when their temple was destroyed and they were removed into exile. The main idea is that during the exile, with no Temple in which to perform the ritual, it fell into disuse. Upon the return to Jerusalem, both the Temple and the ritual were in need of restoration.
In Architecture it is popular to write of 'the old way of seeing' and how a system of building based on the old way has decayed and fallen into disuse. HPH Bromwell recommends in His "Restorations of Masonic Geometry" that the legendary 'lost word' represents the whole of the Doctrine, and that talk of rebuilding the temple actually refers to reconstructing the Original Ritual Meanings, what we might call Masonic landmarks. Bromwell writes, "The intent here is to restore the knowledge of some portions of that which has left the science of the Lodge in a broken and incomplete condition, which restoration can only be effected by first reproducing the original order".
For those of you who have not studied this before, the original order that he refers to is the same as the ritual in the Bible, viewed as the universal ritual. Matters dealt with in the Bible like erecting pillars, altars made of piles of stone, and an elaborate temple are Masonic matters, as are the geometry and astronomy that we find there. John Michell writes that the use of symbolic numbers in ancient temples was part of an instrument designed for a type of science which is no longer recognized today, but which is not beyond recovery since its records are preserved in the language of number built into the dimensions of temples.
The authors of "Hamlet's Mill" speak of a task to recover from the past 'an utterly lost scinece linked to an equally lost culture in which anthropologists have seen only illiterate primative men'. Their view is that the lost science had no system, that there was no systematic key that could be the basis for teaching, because it was spontaneously generated beyore systems could be thought of. While Johm Michell is not that radical, he does say that the system was more in tune with 'national cosmologies' than it was with the realities of geometric and astronomical measurements.
Dion Fortune writes: "We are in the position of excavators working on a site of a buried temple; we are digging up fragments rather than studying a coherent system; for the system, though coherent enough in its heyday, was broken and scattered and defaced by the prosecutions of twenty centuries of unenlightened bigotry and spiritual jealousy". In his introduction to the twentieth Scottish Rite Degree, Pike tells the Candidate that, "As Grand Master of all Symbolic Lodges, it is your special duty to aid in restoring Masonry to its primitive purity". Masonry teaches the cardinal tenets of the old primative faith which are the foundation of all religion.
Architect Herbert Bangs, in his book "The Return of Sacred Architecture", writes of recovering the ancient tradition, but the information that he offers about that is so vague, general, and cliche that while it is true, not much of it is useful in a restoration of the ancient ritual (which includes the building) that Bromwell speaks of. The following is intended as a continuation of the ideas in 'The Restorations'. The first page will introduce some background information, and page two will contrast Bromwell's approach to the task to that of what I will characterize as book sellers.
Myth Making and Symbolic Representations of the Created Universe
We will take it as a given that the ancients had discovered the measures of the Earth, the true proportions of the sun's path in the ecliptic, and the distance to the planets, and from these ascertained facts derived any number of schemes embodying symbolic images of the created universe and the invisible powers which regulate (govern) it. These were the gods, elements etc, the representations of which were different according to Time and Tribe.
In 'Secrets of the Great Pyramid', Peter Tompkins wrote, "Whoever built the Great Pyramid knew the dimensions of the planet as they were not known again till the seventeenth century. They could measure the day, the year and the Great Year of the Precession. They knew how to compute latitude and longitude accurately. They worked out a sophisticated sytem of measures based on the earth's rotation on its axis which produced the earth commensurate foot and cubit which they incorporated into the Pyramid". It was a 'metric monument' designed to embody and perpetuate a system of weights and measures, built to make a record of the measure of the earth; as were other monuments and temples throughout the world.
[The contention is that there has been a regression of geographic and astronomic sciences. One big brick in that wall was the destruction of Persepolis and Heliopolis by Alexander. A reconstruction of geographic and astronomic data bases of the ancients is currently under way.]
The task that falls to myth makers and those who work symbolically (artists, poets, story tellers, architects, etc) is to devise forms in which to publish the astronomical facts, in order to both preserve and transmit them. We find that the myths and fables of early people contain veiled allusions to astronomical facts. The gods of all ancient peoples apparently were personifications of the celestial spheres and the constellations, and the Sun was ever deity and king. [Unfortunately, some people who can not think poetically or symbolically, invariably try to make these stories out to be histories rather than symbolic natural histories. Back to the notion of understanding - it is easy to slip into ordinary literary history if the origins of the tales are not seriously investigated.]
Before the sun is king, the moon is his mother. Consider the Venus of Laussel (above) who holds in her right hand a bison's horn, crescent-shaped like the moon, which is notched with thirteen vertical strokes representing the thirteen days between the first crescent and the full moon and the thirteen months of the lunar year, and with her left hand points to her swelling womb. This is the mother of life, symbolic of that which all women incarnate.
The implcation is that the beginnings of both mathematical and astronomical reckoning lies in the recognition of the parallel between the menstrual and the lunar cycles; the recognition that earthly rythms of life were counterparts of celestial rythms. Where ever you have an agrarian culture, the goddess is going to be the primary mythological figure; also the emphasis will be on the religous experience rather than on theological, logical, and rational aspects of religion.
The mysteries were the presentation of a series of symbols, and anything that was spoken consisted of explanations of the actions or symbols in the initiatory dramas. These were sacred commentaries in which the elements or planets were the actors, and the creation and revolutions of the world were the subject matter. While the symbols used in the ceremonies refered to agriculture, their principle reference was to astronomical phenomena.
They encoded the movements of the sun, moon and planets among the fixed stars, especially accentuating their positions at important periods, and the important periods for the sun are sunrise, noon, sunset, midnight, and solstices and equinoxes (the 'outer facts' of astronomy). The three degrees of Masonry represent the June Solstice, the December Solstice and the Equinoxes. The three candles, or lesser lights, represent the the solar triad, sunrise, noon and sunset. The point of darkness is understood as midnight, where we can't see the sun. Remember that here we are in the realm of 'as seen from the earth'. Helios was imagined by the Greeks as the god who drove the chariot of the sun across the sky each day to earth-circling Oceanus and through the world-ocean returned to the East at night.
Bromwell, like Macrobious before him, recommends that, "The fabulous accounts of the deeds of ancient heros and demi-gods are nothing more than different forms of the sun myth, some having relation to his annual and others to his diurnal course in the heavens". To which Robert Graves (author of "The White Goddess") adds, "Sometimes the god may be referring mythically to his daily cycle from dawn to dawn, sometimes to his yearly cycle from winter solstice to winter solstice with the months as stations of his progress; perhaps sometimes even to his grand cycle of 25.800 years around the Zodiac. All these cycles are types of one another". We hear from James Frazer (Golden Bough) that "the daily appearance and disappearance of the sun might naturally be expressed by a myth of his death and resurrection".
"I see my light come shining, from the west unto the east. Any day now I shall be released." Bob Dylan
Both the annual and daily courses of the sun have been prominent features in most all forms of the (patriarchal) Mysteries, and the representation of the 'journey of life' by the annual and diurnal courses of the sun was the secret of many of the ancient myths and allegories. The Symbolic Masonic Lodge represents in its forms the visible world, and the work represents the natural divisions of the day seen as the journey of life. I say patriarchal because matriarchal societies produce myths and mysteries centered on the Goddess and the Moon.
Not all the mysteries utilized the death and resurrection theme; the ones related to Persephone utilize an exile and return theme. You will recall that she has to spend half the year in the 'underworld'. This pertains to the daily and yearly movements of the sun. Daily the sun is above half the day, and in the underwold half the day; and in a like manner, it is north of the equator half the year, and in the underworld the other half of the year. People usually think of the later when they hear the name Persephone. Sometimes these two periods are represented by two figures, like Apollo and Dionysus, as dawn, noon and sundown are represented by three figures.
In "The Golden Bough" Frazer notes how deities of vegetation are supposed to spend a certain portion of the year underground, and naturally become regarded as gods of the lower world, which gets translated into god of the dead. You can now see that this comes from a misunderstanding of the notion underworld, which in this case means either 'behind the earth' as at midnight, or below the equator, as the sun is half the year. The notion of a dying god was a natural inference from a literal interpretation of nature-worship, since nature appears to die in the winter time.
We also see stories about lines of sucession, like Horus suceeding Osiris, which is cyclic. And we see stories of sucession like Saturn and Jupiter each killing their fathers, which is not.
The Symbolic Lodge
The principle function of myth and ritual is to coordinate the human being with the cycles of his life, to his environment in which he lives, and before the recognition of the planetary motions, his environment was mainly plants and animals. The discovery of the motions of the planets caused what Joseph Campbell called "a great concern to relate the whole organization of the society to this cycling - a tremendous accent on seasonal festivals". The authors of Hamlet's Mill speak of an "obsessive concern with the stars and their motions".
"Some men saw that the stars could be counted, tracked and called by name, and that the skies recount the glory of God. Their ideas were the beginning of intellect, their language ignored local belief and cults and concentrated on numbers, motions, meausres and observations of natural lawfullness."
We see a transformation of culture based on the notion of a cosmic order that can be mathematicaly recorded. Campbell adds that the festivals were not intended to control nature but to put one in accord and harmony with it, because (theoretically at least) when you are, nature will yield its bounty.
The oldest archeological remains of both the Babylonians and the Egyptians show that the chief actors in their Mysteries were personifications of the seven planets visible to the naked eye, which are symbolized by the menorah or seven-branched candlestick by the Hebrews and the seven officers of the Symbolic Masonic Lodge. I recommend that, in spite of what Max Mueller thinks, the 12 labors of Hercules probably first refered to the 12 year obit of Jupiter. The lion skin he wears definitely refers to the sun and Leo, as does the Golden Fleece of Jason and the Argonauts.
The Ark of the Covenant, Noah's Ark, the Tabernacle and the Temple from the Bible are all related to symbolic images of the created universe intended as a shrine for the pantheistic deity whose nature is revealed in the Law. The furniture in the shrine is symbolic of the harmonious heavenly order. The most sacred object was the Ark, containing the two stones of the law. Philo said that the cherubim are symbols of two hemispheres, and that the priestly dress was 'in it's whole is a copy and representation of the world'. We hear this from Albert Pike:
"To the Initiate were displayed the spectacles of the chief agents of the Universal Cause, and of the distribution of the world, in the detail of its parts arranged in most regular order. The Universe itself supplied man with the model of the first Temple reared to the Divinity. The arrangement of the Temple of Solomon, the symbolic ornaments which formed its chief decorations, and the dress of the Priest all had reference to the order of the world."
Bromwell reminds us that the symbolic Masonic lodge, like the Temple and the Tabernacle before that, is a figure of the things which are in the heavens - that is provided the beholder has proper knowledge and the Lodge room furnishings are complete and in Masonic order. The Lodge should be conformable in its parts, form and situation to the visible world or Universe and should represent that in all its principal features, both terrestrial and celestial. The representation is in all respects by correspondence, that is, it is symbolic. The priests also were symbolic.
[Short note about what a huge confusion the notion of the underworld has caused. As most all myths and legends were designed to work in the northern hemisphere, they are written from a northern hemisphere perspective, where the sun is under the world for half a day, and is in the underworld south of the equator half the year. The moon does a similar disappearing act at new moons. Every month that temple is torn down and in three days a new one is built. Underworld does not mean in the middle of the earth.]
Dancing the Magic Circle
From Hamlet's Mill: "Archaic thought is cosmological first and last. Myth (meaning proper poetic fable) is essentially cosmological, as heaven in the cosmos is so vastly more important than our earth. True myth has no historical basis. Tragedy is an essential component or outcome of myth".
What we call Greek drama (poetry) dealt with these astronomically based myths. In the old Greek tragedies, the Choros was said to have been danced and sung (or chanted) with measured steps around an altar (or fire). As they did so they supposedly sought to reproduce the chorus of the 12 stars that mark the intervals of the sun's journey in his yearly revolution. This simple ritual is the prototype foreshadowing more elaborate ceremonies in temples of a later date, and illustrates the impulse toward invoking the deity via the imitation of the measured harmony of the heavenly bodies, whose circular motions were performed by the choral dancers.
"God has made this great system of the Universe and enacted general laws for its govenment. The laws which control and regulate the Universe of God are those of motion and harmony." The dancers were conceptually participating in cosmic processes.
The important words here are 'circular motions', 'imitations', and 'heavenly bodies'. The dancers were seeking to invoke the deity by imitating the motions of the planetary spheres. We are in the realm of magic here, as one of the principles of sympathetic magic is that any effect may be produced by imitating it. According to James Frazer, in sympathetic magic one event is supposed to follow another without the intervention of any agency. That is, primitve people suppose that by representing or mimicking the effect which they desire to produce, they can actually help to produce it. In a broader sense this speaks to artists seeking to imitate Nature or the Divine Order, in general. By magic you are doing what the world does, so you are going with it.
[I am reminded of a passage from Fulcanelli, in which he describes alchemy - "The sky and the earth although confused in the original Chaos, differ neither in sustance or essence. Would it be possible for the artist, the imitator of Nature and of the Great Work, with the help of the secret fire and the universal spirit, to spearate in his little world (microcosm) the luminous parts from the dark? This separation must be made, consisting in the extraction of the light from the darkness". The Alchemist is said to redeem Nature by means of the Great Work or the art of perfecting that which was left imperfect by Nature in the mineral kingdom.]
These festivals were magic charms designed to produce the effect that they dramatically represent (like a good harvest). Frazer writes, "A festival is often explained by a mythical story of those calamaties which it is the real object of the festival to avert." (famine, drought, flood) Frazer suggests that once an individual entertains the idea that the world is a system of impersonal forces acting in accordance with fixed and invariable laws, he resigns any hope of directing nature through magic and looks more and more to prayer and scarifice. [His idea of the gods changes.]
This is one of the landmarks of ceremonial magic, that the rites are intended to be magical and not propitiatory, since the objects are to be attained not by seeking the favor of divine beings through sacrifice, prayer or praise, but by ceremonies which are believed to influence the course of Nature directly through a sympathy or resemblance between the rite and the effect it is intended to produce.
[Sigmund Freud writes, "All magic is basically founded on the premise of the "omnipotence of thoughts", which we find in our children, in primitve peoples and in adult neurotics, and which we judge to be an over-estimation of the influence which our mental faculties can exert on the outer world".]
The sought effect is, of course, Harmony. John Michell writes, "In former times, the human longing for a true understanding of the cosmic order as the model for a perfectly harmonious way of life was more generally appreciated. The temple both sheltered and displayed the sacred canon, for the temple was a canonical work, a model of the national cosmology".
Dion Fortune advises that, "The performances of a ceremonial rite symbolically representing the working of the force personified as a god has a marked and drastic effect on the sunconscious of some poeple, and while the ancients had brought these rites to a high pitch of perfection, we moderns are trying to reconstruct the lost art of practical magic, so we can go to it with great profit".
"Oh great creator of Being, grant us one more hour to perform our art and perfect our lives." from the Ghost dance by the Doors.
"Awake. Shake dreams from your hair my pretty child, my sweet one. Choose the day and choose the sign of your day, the day's divinity - the first thing you see. Choose they croon (the Ancient Ones); the time has come again. Choose now, they croon. Enter again the sweet forest. Enter the hot dream; come with us. Everything is broken up and dances. We have assembled inside this ancient and insane theater to propagate our lust for life ... "
The idea that the moving heavenly bodies bear some relationship to man's fate is deeply ingrained in us and our religous festivals are still based on the astrologically based system of the ancients.
Alexander Thom writes about the system of geometry and mathematics involved in the arrangements of stone circles. Thom showed that the geometry of the old stone circles was derived from the extreme positions of the sun, moon and planets as they cross the horizon. The stones that produce the circle's formation are set out in such a way that the heavenly bodies themselves create the figures on which the circles are based, the most important being the hexagram.
A hexagram touches a circle at the poles and at 30 degrees from the equator. In a stone circle at the equator, the hexagram marks the extremes of the orbit of Mercury, the planet with the most eccentric orbit. Even though the angle on the horizon required for viewing the planets including Mercury increases as we move away from the equator, the shape of our viewing space remains analogous to the rectangle formed by the hexagram.
Mercury's path determines the dimensions of the zodiac belt, which was conceived as a highway in which moved the sun, moon and planets. The zodiac belt was seen as the inhabited part of the skies. Mercury, associated with measure and boundaries, can be as much as 7 degrees north or south of the ecliptic; thus the zodiac is 14 degrees wide. Egypt begins at the line of the tropic of Cancer and extends north for 7 degrees, so that it is equivalent to the northern band of the zodiac, in order to be in agreement with the order of the cosmos.
We are told that the Egyptians invented the column as an architectural element. In the Doric order, the shaft is six units high and the capital is one unit high, reflecting the division of Egypt into a 6 degree southern part and a one degree northern part.
I recommend that the 'magic circle' ritual used by 'magicians' derives from the same ceremonial, but has been stripped of its astronomical connection. That is, most magicians probably don't realize that their magic circle is derived from the astronomical viewing circle and the imitative circle dances.
According to Aristotle, tragedy is more philosophical than history because while history purports to relate what happened, tragedy dramatizes what may happen as a result, what is possibile according to the law of probability and necessity. We can say that History deals with particulars, and tragedy with universals. Tragedy was rooted in myths, which were "associated with every form of ceremony" as an essential reflection of their religion and culture. Greek theater was largely ceremonial and ritualistic and had little room for literacy and logic. "The ritual environment of tragedy was part of its meaning."
These stories do not need to be historically accurate to be meaningful. As Bromwell puts it, "Masonic legends and traditions are devised, not for the purpose of perpetuatiing the knowledge of historical facts, but for containing and covering some important truth which might be lost if not put in some such fom, and they are alegorical and not historical, as some suppose. A series of facts or events may be commemorated in legend so framed as to contain a lesson in philosophy, and may be wrought into an allegory.".
What we would call a passion play today, is equivalent to what the greeks called tragedy and what has come down to us as the Mysteries. In Greek tragedies, people dutifully play their roles as the gods direct them toward destruction. As the gods represent forces of nature, tragedy is rooted in the fundamental order of the universe. Tragedy arouses fear as well as pity, because it reveals what may happen at any time or place because that is the way the world operates, and because the audience can envision themselves in the same situation. Plato called cosmological time the "dance of the stars" and felt it potent enough to control events in general, the origin of our notion of astrology.
The presentations of the tragedies in Greece were intiatatory theater that was part of the spring festival, like our Easter sunrise services. Early on they we called goat poems, as they were performed at the occasion of the sacrifce of a goat. In those days, drama entailed words, visuals and dance and song. In the tragedies, or goat-songs, the audience saw some hero suffering in the way the hero must, as the goat was sacrificed for his crime, which he could not avoid. Early goat-dances for local heroes were eventually transferred to Dionysos as the heroic god. In their higher forms some of the Ancient Mysteries employed a central ceremonial in which there was a drama in imitation of the experiences and the tragic death and resurrection of the sun god/hero.
[See Joshua 6:1-20 "And ye shall compass the city, all ye men of war, and go round about the city once. Thus shalt thou do six days. And seven priests shall bear before the ark seven trumpets of rams' horns: and the seventh day ye shall compass the city seven times." Seven is of course the number of planetary spheres known to the ancients, including the sun and the moon.]
In these Choral Performances, especially of dithyrambs (choral songs in honor of Dionysos, out of which tragedy developed) the costumes are formal, physical action is restrained, and without violence (violence is off stage). "The dancing that accompanied these songs in the earlier part of the 5th century was solemn with almost slow-motion movement. Here is a description of this older kind of dancing attributed to either Plato or Aristophanes (Athenaeus, 628c-f):
"The kind of dance performed by the choruses was decorous and dignified and like an imitation of the movements of men in arms and Socrates in his poems says that the finest dancers are the best warriors. He writes: Those who honor the gods most beautifully with choruses are best in war. For dancing is virtually like military maneuvers and a display both of discipline in general and of a concern for bodily health." We are reminded that the Assyrians conceived of the planets as messengers and soldiers serving the god of heaven, and that their approaches to one another and subsequent retreats were seen as anologous to military movements.
In addressing 'art as magic' in his book "Serpent in the Sky" John Anthony West mentions ancient Egyptian dance forms involving dancers, musicians, and warriors performing in what he calls Zen-fashion. As he points to the careful attention that was paid to 'ritual gestures' in all Egyptian painting, we are reminded of Tai Chi and the martial arts.
He writes that the central themes central to Egyptain art and architecture are reincarnation, resurrection and the journey of the soul to the underworld (failing to mention astronomy), then this, "The fact is that science knows nothing of these matters", right before, "The whole of Egyptian art is symbolic". Next he embarks on a discussion about if reincarnation is a fact... West has missed the point that these are allegories based on observational astronomy. In all of these ceremonies, as in the funeral rites, dances announced or celebrated rebirth in all its possible aspects, as in the continual renewal of Nature and the sun.
"Early Greek dance was most likely done on the chorostasi (threshing floors), a circular paved area where wheat was harvested. After the harvest, it was time for celebration, and only natural to clear the space of the circular threshing floor and celebrate with dancing. Dance is often identified with other universal symbols, such as the sun and the moon. The threshing floor was called "orchestra" named after the Greek word for dance orchesis. In time, the orchestra became the focal point of rituals and festivities leading to the birth of Greek tragedy." from http://www.helleniccomserve.com/greek_dance.html
"Dancing has always been important to the Hellenic (Greek) people. In ancient times, dance, song, and music were all integral parts of the theater. In fact, the Greek word 'XOPOC' (HOROS) referred to both dance and song." The Greek word choros means 'a dance in a ring'. The English words chorus, chorale, choir, and choreography all come from this same Greek word. The choir in church or cathdral is where the service is sung, east of the altar. from The Genesis of the Round Dance: http://www.templestudy.com/2008/02/07/the-genesis-of-the-round-dance/ .
In Greek sacred dances (chorus) the circumambulation around the altar was accompanied by the singing or chanting of a sacred ode. (Ode = df. a form of stately and elaborate lyrical verse.) The chorus (12 or 15 actors) always marched onto the stage in a rectangle, but danced in circular mode. The orchestra (literally, "dancing space") was normally a circular level space where the chorus would dance, sing, and interact with the actors who were on the stage. In the center of the orchestra there was often an altar. The orchestra of the theater of Dionysus in Athens was about 60 feet in diameter.
Rites of Sacrifice
"In ancient Greece, when the priests were engaged in the rites of sacrifice, they and the people always walked three times around the altar while chanting a sacred hymn or ode. Sometimes, while the people stood around the altar, the rite of circumambulation was performed by the priest alone, who, turning towards the right hand, went around it, and sprinkled it with meal and holy water." from The Symbolism of Freemasonry by Albert G. Mackey
[During the Old Kingdom, just after the mummification process was completed what were termed "offering table" dances were performed , which lured the dead, born to a new life, to his first meal. There are scenes depicting groups of women and even men, and a range of dances that are loosely associated with the dead sitting at an offering table.]
1 Chronicles 21: 22 "Then David said to Ornan, Grant me the place of this threshingfloor, that I may build an altar therein unto the LORD: thou shalt grant it me for the full price: that the plague may be stayed from the people." 28 At that time when David saw that "the LORD had answered him in the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite, then he sacrificed there." Like the threshing floor, the temple is also meant to be a place of blessing. It's out of this blessing received from the threshing floor that an offering to the Lord is to be made (Numbers 15:20, 18:27). This links the threshing floor to worship. The threshing floor as a place of receiving blessing, offering and worship fits perfectly with the idea of a temple.
The dance performed by David round the ark was the circle-dance (See 2 Samuel vi. 14, 16.), such as the dance of the daughters of Shiloh (Judges xxi.), and the leaping of the prophets of Baal (I Kings xviii. 26). It was a characteristic of the Sabean worship, for it denoted the motion of the planets round the sun. That a threshingfloor is understood as a place of sacrifice is re-emphasized by Uzza loosing his life there:
1Chr.13 9] And when they came unto the threshingfloor of Chidon, Uzza put forth his hand to hold the ark; for the oxen stumbled.
 And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzza, and he smote him, because he put his hand to the ark: and there he died before God.
Naturally gods related to the harvest would fit well in this complex of ideas that surrounds the threshingfloor. Saturn or Chronos, was the god of the harvest and was depicted with a scythe or sickle in his hand, signifying reaping. This is the model used for Father Time as well. Note the goat feet above. In Rome the Saturnalia coincided with the December Solstice. Once again the main theme is the continual renewal of Nature and the sun.
Concerning the notion of sacrifice and 'doing what the world does' (sympathetic magic), if we, as the Brahman's do, conceive of the world as an 'ever-burning fire of sacrifice into which an inexhaustable sacrifice is being poured', we develop a passion for sacrifice. We are pouring our offerings into the fire, because that is the nature of life, an ever-burning fire of sacrifice. Hence the emphasis on light and fire in many philosophical systems. The authors of "Hamlett's Mill" suggest that ancient man prided himself on the fact that he could do one thing that the gods could, and that was to make fire.
In ancient times, since it was believed that blood is life, and that life cries for life in order to maintain itself, there were always blood sacrifices. The idea that the gods must be appeased is joined to the idea that blood or life alone is that which appeases them. At some point the notion of 'atonement' develops tied to the belief that a pure offering exhonerated those in whose name its life was poured out. Psychologically speaking, this is 'doubly vicarious', in that sin was not imputed to the victim and because the victims will had no part in the sacrifice. This is the classical scape goat, the innocent victim of tragedy.
As was suggested above, we can either be a participant or an observer of initiatory theater. In Masonry, the Candidate is a participant, and in the third degree he plays the part of innocent victim; but in the Royal Arch Degree, the view of sacrifice is different. Enoch's cube is matter, and the triangle with the name of God on the cube, is the Divine Spark in all matter. Theosophically, since God is within us, the only acceptable offering to make to God would be our selves. The high purpose of the Mysteries was the intentional offering to God of your purified and consecrated self; a voluntary scarifice. (see Alchemy and Hasidism)
The Dialectic Ode
The dance (ode) consisted of three sections: strophe, antistrophe and epode. The strophe consisted of a turn, the antistrophe a counterturn, with matching rhythms and meters. Circumambulation was reversed: the movement from right to left was called the strophe and that from left to right the antistrophe. The epode was a fixed position.
Strophe (Greek, to turn) is a term in versification which properly means a turn, as from one foot to another, or from one side of a chorus to the other. Antistrophe, the portion of an ode which is sung by the chorus in its returning movement from west to east, in response the strophe, which was sung from east to west. It is of the nature of a reply, and balances the effect of the strophe. Eventually this antiphonal singing (a statement and a reply) brought about the dialogue form, and the early threshing floor stages evolved into the amphitheater with the circular space (orchestra) used for the tragic chorus adopted as part of the tragedy. (Note the rectangular structure.)
["Just as a religious procession marked out the space of religion, the chorus danced the architecture of the theatrical space into being."]
The cyclic chorus portrays the movement of the sun, as Greeks believed that movements of heavenly bodies constituted a cosmic dance. At times the circle dance seems to have been an invocation dance, but many people misunderstand and misrepresent the dual nature of the danced ode. Consider what Albert Mackey has to say about the ode:
"It will be observed that this circumambulation around the altar was accompanied by the singing or chanting of a sacred ode. Of the three parts of the ode, the strophe, the antistrophe, and the epode, each was to be sung at a particular part of the procession." A particular part of the procession does not adequately explain the reversal. As a matter of fact he continues by saying:
"In making this circumambulation, it was considered absolutely necessary that the right side should always be next to the altar, and consequently, that the procession should move from the east to the south, then to the west, next to the north, and afterwards to the east again. It was in this way that the apparent revolution of the sun was represented." But if we turn then counter turn, we can't always have the altar on our right?
"Lastly, I may refer to the preservation of this rite among the Druids, whose "mystical dance" around the cairn, or sacred stones... On these occasions the priest always made three circuits, from east to west, by the right hand, around the altar or cairn, accompanied by all the worshippers. the people "never come to the ancient sacrificing and fire-hallowing cairns, but they walk three times around them, from east to west, according to the course of the sun." This sanctified tour, or round by the south is called Deiseal, as the contrary, or unhallowed one by the north, is called Tuapholl. this word Deiseal was derived "from Deas, the right (understanding hand) and soil, one of the ancient names of the sun, the right hand in this round being ever next the heap."
He names the two turns of the Druid ritual and the ode, but insists that -
"The essence of the ancient rite consisted in making the circumambulation around the altar, from the east to the south, from the south to the west, thence to the north, and to the east again. In this the masonic rite of circumambulation strictly agrees with the ancient one. This circuit by the right hand was done as a representation of the sun's motion. It was a symbol of the sun's apparent course around the earth. As the circumambulation is made around the lodge, just as the sun was supposed to move around the earth, we are brought back to the original symbolism with which we commenced that the lodge is a symbol of the world."
But, the sun doesn't move that way as seen from the southern hemisphere. There it moves in the opposite direction. As he says, circumabulation is a symbol of the sun's apparent path, and in the southern hemisphere it appears to move the opposite direction. The point here is that all of this symbolism reveals a northern hemispere bias, where the southern hemisphere is considered the underworld and land of the dead in the literal interpretation. That is, the southern hemisphere view is not presented in the current ritual.
Bee's Do It.
In the early 1900s Austrian naturalist Karl von Frisch discovered that bees express themselves by dancing to indicate the location of a food source. For a food source within about 50 meters (160 ft) of the hive, the bee does a circular dance, first in one direction then the other. Note the hexagons that conceal cubes, and take a second to reflect on why Masons always feature beehives in their symbolism.
If the new source of nectar or pollen is more distant than that, the scout does a figure-eight dance.
"A waggle dance consists of one to 100 or more circuits, each of which consists of two phases: the waggle phase and the return phase. A worker bee's waggle dance involves running through a small figure-eight pattern: a waggle run (aka waggle phase) followed by a turn to the right to circle back to the starting point (aka return phase), another waggle run, followed by a turn and circle to the left, and so on in a regular alternation between right and left turns after waggle runs."
Please take a look at these two short videos and reflect on what has been said above about dance, the sun, the dialectic, etc.
Dancing Honeybee Using Vector Calculus to Communicate,
Bee Dance (Waggle Dance). As you would expect, observations have suggested that different species of honeybees have different "dialects" of the waggle dance, each species or subspecies dance varying by curve or duration.
Right Hand? Left Hand?
Circumambulation as part of religous rites and magical ceremonies (meaning a formal procession around an altar, consecrated object or space), appears to have been universal among the ancients; although opinions varied as to the correct procedure to be followed and the reasons for that, as they do today. As with many systems of thought, you have a right-hand school and a left-hand one.
If you google circumabmulation you see quotations suggesting that the 'correct' method entails always keeping the altar at your right hand, that the Romans considered counter-clockwise circumabulation to be sinister, and that in modern times 'reverse' circumabulation is used by magicians for banishing. You open to the right and close to the left so to speak. If you asked a Mason about it, most would say that 'like the sun', they are on a journey to the east, by way of the north (the place of darkness). "The Romans considered this leftwise movement as black magic, certain to bring ill fortune; their word sinister, meaning left, retains disturbing connotations even when brought over into English."
"After making the circumambulation outside the Nalambalam the devotee enters the inner space around the sanctum sanctorum to worship lord Rajarajeswara’s Jyothirlingam. As usual in the temples of lord Shiva, the circumambulation is performed only up to the theertha-channel and it is completed with a reverse circumambulation up to the channel."
When we ask 'What gave rise to this rite in the first place?', the first answer that we get is that circumambulation is a element of ancient sun worship. That it originally alluded to the apparent course of the sun in the skies, which in the northern hemisphere is from left to right. Ancient peoples supposedly believe that imitating the sun's journey through the skies was an act of worship because of their faith in sympathetic magic. They believed they could gain power over natural forces and propitiate demons by imitating them. According to this notion, circumambulation was originally just such an imitative magical rite.
According to this view, it is the sun (in its daily and yearly orbit) that is being represented in the Masonic ritual. "We imitate the example of the sun, and follow his benevolent course." [which we are told, is from east to west by the way of the south.] , but if we look at the Islamic and Sufi view, they circumambulate from right to left 'around their heart' anti-clockwise. A pilgrim circumambulates the Kaaba as if he or she is a celestial body orbiting another greater body (like the sun, see Tibetan Prayer Wheel above). Circumambulating the Kaaba indicates the believer's utter submission to Almighty Allah alone. Sufi dancers revolve around their left foot with their head tilted as the earth's axis is tilted. The sufi dancer is imitating the orbiting earth, rather than the sun.
Muslim pilgrims visiting the Kaaba temple go around it seven times. In no other mosque does the circumambulation prevail. A pilgrim circumambulates the Kaaba as if he or she is a celestial body orbiting another greater body (like the sun). Circumambulating the Kaaba indicates the believer's utter submission to Almighty Allah alone. Sufi dancers revolve around their left foot with their head tilted as the earth's axis is tilted. The sufi dancer is imitating the orbiting earth, rather than the sun.
Ancient Egypt’s ritual circle dancing was similar to the Babylonian version: "Ranging around a fixed altar, which represented the sun, priests clad in brilliant costumes made signs for the zodiac with their hands, while turning rhythmically from east to west, following the course of the planets. Plato points out that the Egyptians did this to represent the dance of the planets and stars around the altar of the sun. Again there is a connection between the ring dance and the cosmos.
Circumambulating, in either case, is believed to be a submission to the Deity, an act of humility toward God by imitation, attracting the Deity's attention for blessings and getting one self in line with the movement of the universe. It was also believed to connect you to all those and their vibration power in the past that performed this rite. Like prayer, it symbolizes the believer's entry into Divine presence, it assures us and consoles us there is an axis from which all is spun and created, connecting and strengthen us all.
"Circumambulation allows you to walk in harmony with a greater power and the laws of nature, for to fight nature is suicide, to harmonize with it is true power. In circumambulatng the Lodge, we are imitating nature, that is, we ourselves are playing the part of nature, the better to sense its cycles, power, and our nonverbal understanding of nature and the world - the better to move closer to the deity." The Tibetan Pray Wheel entails the same idea.
The planets circumambulate the sun, as they derive everything from it. Man, a part of the universe, should circumambulate too, with the difference being that planets move in a determined path according to the laws of nature (all of their revolutions are natural and unconscious), but man, the rational being and possessor of free will, a mind and an intelligence which distinguishes him from other beings, circumambulates with his logic and will.
"Thus the whirling dervish or semazen, intentionally and consciously participates in the shared revolution of other beings. By revolving in harmony with all things in nature the semazen testifies to the existence and the majesty of the Creator, thinks of Him, gives thanks to Him, and prays to Him. In so doing, the semazen confirms the words of the Qur'an (64:1): Whatever is in the skies or on earth invokes God."
If you watch films of the sufi dancers, you will notice the dyed sheep skin on the floor or on a post, that represents the sun, as does the dance master; and that the sheep skin is placed in the end of the dance area like the Worshipful Master in the Lodge. Note how the sufi dancers bow to the sheep skin as they request permission to dance. Many of the elements are the same as in the masonic ritual except that the basic premise has been reversed, instead of imitating the apparent visible path of the sun in the sky (daily and yearly) the sufis imitate the motions of all orbiting bodies. [This is 13th century Islamic cosmology. http://www.guidetoturkey.com/aboutturkey/info_tips/mevlevi.asp http://www.ittmt.org/sema_eng.htm http://www.whirlingdervishes.org/whirlingdervishes.htm http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/dervish.htm]
The White Goddess
"Many of the traditional rhymes and games of childhood have a deep inner spiritual meaning. The acting game 'Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush' is an example. Here one player stands in the centre while the others form a ring around her. During the choruses they dance round her like the planets about the sun, while in each verse she chooses and leads the action (this is the way we clap our hands, sow the corn etc.). In some versions she is a bramble-bush, but both the bramble and the mulberry are associated with forms of Dea, and is a minor representative of the World Tree. In each case she represents the still Point at the centre of manifestation, the solar Spirit Herself, by Whom all the forms of manifestation are expressed in their perfect Essence and are reflected upon the rim of the wheel of being, (in the realm of movement and multiplicity)." from http://aristasia.wordpress.com/2007/06/11/here-we-go-round-the-mulberry-bush/
Now consider this from page 422 of Robert Graves 1948 book "The White Goddess"; "Originally the poet was the leader of a totem-society of religous dancers. His verses - versus is the Latin word corresponding to the Gree strophe and means 'a turning' - were danced around an altar or sacred enclosure and each verse started a new turn or movement in the dance. Dances were seasonal and fitted into the annual pattern from which gradually emerges the single grand theme of poetry: the life, death and resurrection of the Spirit of the Year, the Goddess' son and lover". Graves proclaims that true poetry began in the matriarchal age, and derives its magic from the moon not the sun.
I am reminded of a quote from Michell that reads, "The ritual varied with the seasons and the cycles, (since) it was a matter of greatest concern that the ritual observances follow the cosmic rythms".
Graves' (1946) thesis was that the language of poetic myth was a magical language bound up with popular religous cermonies in honor of the Moon goddess. According to Graves, the language of 'true poetry' was tampered with when patriarchal institutions replace matriarchal ones; even more so in the time of the Greeks who opposed magical poetry as threatening their new religion of logic. A true poem say Graves, is necessarily an invocation of the White Goddess, or Muse, the Mother of All Living, as Gothic cathedrals were (see Fulcanelli).
In the matriarchal ritual the Great Goddess has a son, lover, victim, the Star-son or Spirit of the Year. In patriarchal times she is courted by the Thunder-god (a rebellious Star-son), and bears him twins who rule the halves of the year. By the time of the Greeks, the twins are Apollo and Dionysus, and the Goddess has become Nine Muses (nine being the number of the Moon). The popular appeal of modern Catholicism is based on the Mother-Son tradition rather than on 'warrior-god' elements.
In the image below we see the Muses compared to the nine celestial spheres. Click the image for a larger version of that. Note especially the three women in a circle at the top, and compare to the next image of an American Indian ritual dance. In that image there are seven posts symbolizing the seven spheres that remain after we removed the earth and the stars. Note that the serpentine figure represents the apparent motions of the celestial spheres as seen from the earth. That's Apollo on the throne, so this is a patriarchal representation of things.
In the lunar poetic myth, instead of a solar triad, we see a lunar one. According to Skelton in his "Garland of Laurell" describes the Triple Goddess in three characters; as Goddes of the sky, earth, and underworld (Diana, Luna and Persophene). As goddess of the underworld she was concerned with birth, procreation, and death (the soul's journey), as goddess of the earth, she was concerned with the seasons, and as goddess of the sky, she was the moon in three phases, new, full and waning. As you can see, stylistically, this mirrors the solar template.
Closely related to the Triple Goddess are the Horai (or Horae), the Greek goddesses of the seasons and the natural order, who presided over the revolutions of the heavenly constellations by which the year was measured, while their three sisters spinned out the web of fate. In later mythology they became the four seasons. They oversaw the path of the sun-god Helios as he travelled across the sky, dividing the day into its portions. When the day was divided into 12 equal parts, each of them took the name of Hora. The course of the seasons (or hours) is symbolically described by the ancient circular dance of the Horae, the dance of the gods. The Horae, who are worshipped as Hours as well as Seasons and the months of year, are the wardens of the sky and of Olympus. Their task is to figuratively open and close the Gates of Heaven.
In Greek mythology Phaeton was the son of Helios, the sun-god who drove his golden chariot (called a 'quadriga' yoked to a team of four horses abreast) daily across the sky. Above Helios sits on a throne framed in the zodiacal belt, while Phaeton kneels in front of him. The old figure is Saturn. This is the palace of Helios, that Ovid writes of, where he tells of his crew - Day, Month, Year, the Four Seasons and so on.
"One day Phaeton persuaded an unwilling father to allow him for one day to drive his chariot across the skies. The Hours yoked the team of four horses to the golden car, Dawn threw open her doors, and Phaeton was off. Because he had no skill he was soon in trouble, and the climax came when he met the fearful Scorpion of the zodiac. He dropped the reins, the horses bolted and caused the earth itself to catch fire. In the nick of time Jupiter, father of the goods, put a stop to his escapade with a thunderbolt which wrecked the chariot and sent Phaeton hurtling down in flames into the River Eridanus. He was buried by nymphs. Phaetons's reckless attempt to drive his father's chariot made him the symbol of all who aspire to that which lies beyond their capabilities."
The above is just background information that helps us understand how the Roman Circuses that featured chariot racing were also symbolic represntations of the created Universe and dedicated to the seasonal revitalization of nature by the sun. The race course was likened to that of the planets around the ecliptic with altars to the planets along the spline of track. See this short page concerning
Circus as Cosmic Allegory.
Mesoamerican ballcourts likewise represent the course of the planets around the sun. The ballgame was a sport with ritual associations played within a large masonry structure. It was a game of chance, skill and trickery reflecting life. The team effort engaged individuals in shared behaviour and culture, introducing, reinforcing and reinventing the game of life and peoples’ place in the cosmic order.
The religious significance of the ball game is most completely described in the Popol Vuh and the actual game, as played in the ball court is a re-enactment of Mayan mythology with the movement of the ball representing the cyclic journeys of the Sun and Moon through the sky, sinking to earth only to rise again. In that playing ball engaged one in the maintenance of the cosmic order of the universe and the ritual regeneration of life. The game appears in various myths and in its inherent duality, is sometimes seen either as a struggle between day and night deities, or the battles between the gods in the sky and the lords of the underworld. Courts were considered portals to the underworld and were built in key locations within the central ceremonial precincts.
[The Popol Vuh (literally "words written on leaves") is the central religious text and creation myth of the Mayans of Central America. The Spanish attempted to destroy every existing copy of the Popol Vuh in the process of Catholicizing the Central American natives, but they were unsuccessful. There are a few codices with the complete text in Mayan hieroglyphics, and a number of traditionally trained Mayans who have the entire text, as well as commentary and interpretation, committed to memory.]
"The theme of solar movement is tied to fertility and the bouncing ball is thought to have represented the sun, and the sacrifice of a ballplayer represented the death of the sun, which would then be reborn. The sacrifice of ball-players was intimately related to the celestial cycle of the sun and moon for both the Mayans and Aztecs, as was the game itself. One of the most important episodes in the Popol Vuh mentions two sets of important Mayan gods going down into the Underworld to contest with Lords One and Seven Death, the gods of the underworld, and afterwards being killed and transformed into celestial bodies. The sacrifice of losing teams in the ball game was a reaffirmation of this for the Mayans, and an aspect of a compact with the Underworld which allowed the sun and moon to rise every day so long as the sacrifices were made."
The May Pole Dance
The sufi dancers are representing orbiting bodies, and while there are sections to the dance, there are no reversals of direction that I know of. However, if we look at Greek Tragedy, we see a definite dialectical triad, just like the Masonic Degrees. In the May Pole Dance, we see a similar left, right, center theme that reminds us of the cadeusus which features two serpents entwined on a staff or tree. Here we see a desription of that:
"Another famous circle dance is the Maypole. A Phallic worship in honor of the fertility god/dess. This dance is done by girls and boys who dance around the pole (which is the symbol of the male generative organ). The dance is done by counter clock-wise and clock-wise movements. The ribbons are twisted, to intertwine around each other." That is, the boys went round one way and the girls went round the other. The result is a pole wrapped to look like the paths that the sun and planets take as seen from the earth.
"The dance involves moving in circles and weaving over and under the other dancers. The women take the white ribbons with their right sides to the pole, and the men take the red ribbons with their left sides to the pole. There are usually eight dancers one for each Sabbat of the year paired into four couples. The dances involve moving in circles and weaving under each other's inter- locked, upheld arms in mock sexual unions." Initially we talked about the inevitability of the change which we call death, then we talked about life living off of life and about scarifice, now we approach the subject of birth and how that works.
The term 'anthropomorphism' means projecting human characteristics on the world (or god). This is the psychological basis of the phrase 'as above, so below'. What this means is that the universe is analogous to itself. It was determined anthropomorphically, long ago, that 'the first measures' were derived from the body of a man. That is man was made in the image of both God and the world, and the body of man is the standard measure of the world.
Concerning the inscrutable mystery of the 'cause and continuance of life', the anthrop view reasons concerning all phenomena of existence after the manner of human creation. That is, the human model is projected on nature and we see male and female gods and goddesses and rape and all of that mythologically. What this means is that, just as the 'death' part of the tragedies involved a real sacrificial death, you can be assured that the lessons that pertained to sex and procreation wer no less graphic; maybe more so.
The image above has been characterized as "Ningishzida standing on hind-legs holding stylized door hinges (?), suggesting his role as a portal guardian. In the Adapa and the Southwind myth Ningishzida with Dumuzi are gate guards for Anu's heavenly abode". The twin intertwined serpents definitely remids us of the cadeusus and of Mercury, who rules boundaries and limits. I believe that the image is indicating the bounded way that constitutes the zodiac belt that is defined by the range of Mercury's orbit.
The Design of Freemasonry
We will characterize all of the various modes of representation above as Primitive Masonry.
"The common source of all these rites is to be found in Primitive Freemasonry, and we are brought back to the original symbolism with which we commenced--that the lodge is a symbol of the world. In our circumambulation in Lodge, we are imitating nature, that is, we ourselves are playing the part of nature, the better to sense its cycles, power, and our nonverbal understanding of nature and the world - the better to move closer to the deity. We can trace the identity of the origin of Freemasonry with that of the religious and mystical ceremonies of the ancients."
"To my mind, the perambulations represent the ways we experience time, and each degree illustrates a different kind, which we might label specific, general, and universal. A specific experience refers to one event, or one moment, and whatever qualities that moment contains.A general experience is one which many people have, or which one person has many times. These are the things we all recognise and share, the regular and familiar experiences of daily life. A universal experience, however, is one which everybody has, but each person in their own way. The difference between these last two classes of experience is not easy to define, but it seems to me that lessons drawn from experiences of the general kind mount upwards from repetition and accumulation, while universal lessons are those which permeate downwards from some higher source."
According to Bromwell, there are two classes of persons disinclined to believe that the founders of the Lodge had the true form of the earth in mind when they adopted the system of representation in practice in the Degrees. The first of these, he says, claim that all the principal forms, ceremonies and symbols of the Lodge have been introduced in recent times. The second class holds the Lodge to be an ancient institution, that the surface of the earth is the symbolic lodge floor, and that the visible universe is represented somehow in the Lodge, but they feel that such a representation is based on the apparent form of the earth as a flat plane and believe that the ancients had no knowledge whatsoever of the spherical form of the earth. They beleive that the discovery of its global nature is modern.
Albert Mackey asks the question, "What, then, is the design of Freemasonry?". Mackey's answer is that 'the search after truth constitutes the end and design of Speculative Masonry'; he means truth in a strictly philosophical sense in which it is opposed to intellectual and religious error or falsehood. Mackey conceives the 'word' of Masonry to be the symbol of Divine Truth, but he fails to connect it to either Geometry or Astronomy (two of the pillars of Masonry), and rejects astronomical connections to the ritual.
"The true name of God was lost; his true nature was not understood; the lessons imparted by our father Noah were no longer remembered; the ancient traditions were now corrupted; the ancient symbols were perverted. Truth was buried beneath the rubbish of Sabaism, and the idolatrous adoration of the sun and stars had taken the place of the olden worship of the true God." Sabianism involved imitative circle dances as described above.
For Mackey the Word itself was the symbol of Divine Truth, and the narrative of its loss and the search for its recovery becomes a mythical symbol of the decay and loss of the true religion among the ancient nations, and of the attempts of the wise men, the philosophers, and priests, to find and retain it in their secret Mysteries and initiations. Instead of having to do with astronomy, the degrees becomes a symbol of the personal progress of a candidate from his first initiation to the completion of his course, that is his life's journey. Unfortunately he recommends that "It is only beyond the tomb, and when released from the earthly burden of life, that man is capable of fully receiving and appreciating the revelation"? George Harison suggest that it 'far too late when we pass away'.
A lot of Masonic legends and explanations are like the one above, in that they fall apart when they are examined because they are logically inconsistant. For instance, if the word is not bestowed on us in this body, how can it be said to have been in someone's possesion and have been lost? Mackey is also missing the distinction between the lesser and the greater mysteries. While the greater mysteries dealt with theosophy and the mystries relating to the notion of deity, the lesser mysteries were dedicated to instruction in astronomy.
On page 81 of Canon, William Striling writes, "To the Greeks, Truth meant the whole cosmic system, accurately and truly deliniated". I hope that what has been written above shows that there are dozens of astronomical elements and schemes that could be symbolically represented, and that they can be interpreted from varying points of view, literally. The apparent goal was symbolic models which conform to scale.
The Arabic name of Egypt is al Misri and is said to derive from a verb meaning 'to cut, to delimit, to deliniate' or alternaterly 'to draw a picuture, plan or representation'. The book of Hebrews in the Bible deals with the distinction between what it calls 'the pattern' and the real thing; "the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man". Hebrews 9 "Almost all things are by the law purged with blood; without shedding of blood is no remission. It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself."
That is, the temples made by hand are 'figures of the true' which is 'heaven itself'. Hebrews 8 "There are priests that offer gifts according to the law, Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle; See that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount".
For Bromwell, 'The work of the Lodge is the exposition of the Divine order, the order of the universe - that is Wisdom and Truth, out of which proceeds all order. The work is the representation in symbolism of the truths of the symbolic lodge. The Lodge is a symbolic effigy of the universe, and its work must correspond with the work of the Divine or universal order in which every element, force and operation is in unfailing harmony. It is the order in creation, that is, the Divine order, which Masonry celebrates and imitates, and without it, Masonry, in its sublime sense as symbolic and speculative, would be without occupation or object'.
A Universal Ritual?
As to circumambulation in Masonry, it should be pointed out that the first degree relates to the northern hemisphere view, the second degree to the southern hemisphere, and the third degree to the equitorial view. The first two degrees are equal and opposite, balanced by the third (like the parts of the ode). HPH Bromwell notes that in order to be universal, the ritual has to fit the form and situation of the globe all over.
The ritual as it is now performed is done as seen from the northern hemisphere view alone. In that view, and in the first degree, if we are imitating the sun, then it is proper to move from the left to the right. But, if in the second degree, we intend to depict the southern hemisphere view, then there the point of darkness is in the south and the movement is properly in the opposite direction. (Note that, in the astral theology of Babylonia and Assyria, Anu, Enlil and Ea became the three zones of the ecliptic, the northern, middle and southern zone respectively.)
In the image below we see the summer solstice north and south and the winter solstice north and south depicted as if it were four events? The two lines down the center are the tropics and the twelve blocks down the middle are the twelve signs (months). As a Masonic representation this does not work very well as it appears to suggest that there are four solstices in twelve months.
[The seven officers of the lodge are the seven planetary spheres. The vesica indicates the crossing of the equator and the ecliptic, and the ladder indicates the intervals between the planets.]
The Shape of the Symbolic Lodge
Concerning variations in the conception of the symbolic lodge Bromwell writes:
"It can not be neccessary that every design of a truly Masonic floor should be the same in every particular; in such a work variations may be numerous. Differnt minds will form different conceptions of combinations for the symbolical representation of the ideas contemplated, and the perfecting of such designs is part of the Craft of Masonry. (However) there must be laws or canons of symbolic interpretion, and also of order and of conformity to the forms of the natural universe." He is talking about agreed upon Masonic landmarks here.
Masons represent the movements of the sun across the sky as seen from the surface of the earth, while the Sufis present an image of planets orbiting the sun, but in the initiatory theater of the Sema ceremony, tragedy and Masonry, our point of departure is the same, a drama of human development (the soul's journey) that is presented in a symbolic lodge that is understood to be analogous to the universe. That is both the form and situation of the symbolic lodge, and the symbolic nature of the characters in the legends and drama pertain to astronomy.
Remember that the symbolic lodge refers to a space used for the ritual, not to a room or a building. Any open space will do. As the work of the symbolic lodge is the representation of the form and situation of the world in a ritual, and an attempt is made at universality, the form of the ritual as well as the lodge should correspond to the forms of the world. We have already addressed the direction of the circumabulation in the degrees above, now we will look at the shape of the symbolic lodge.
If you ask Masons about what the shape of the symbolic lodge derives from you will receive many answers, some of which make Masonic sense and some which don't. Also most will fail to point out that there are three degrees, thus, three lodges in one. The correct answer is that the symbolic lodge represents the earth and the world in miniature (microcosm, scale model), so that the shape and the lines of the lodge should reflect this. One thing we know for sure, the lodge is intended to be an 'oblong square' (a rectangle).
Looking at the numbers for Noah's Ark (300, 50, 30 or 360, 60, 36) we see that the rectangular figure records knowledge of the measures of the earth. In the story of Noah's Ark we see the solar system identified with a vessel, the sun's boat as in Egypt. (Greaves writes that the Noah's Ark story is probably derived from an Asiatic story in which the Spirit of the Solar Year goes through his habitual yearly changes.) 360 x 60 is a rectangular representation of the area on the earth between 30 degrees north and 30 degrees south, 360 degrees round. While the sun only ranges to 23.5 degrees, Mercury can range 6.5 degrees beyond the sun. That rectangle marks the range of Mercury as viewed from the EQ, that of the sun lies 6.5 degrees within that. Mercury is associated with border and boundaries.
The sun measures a definite space in the heavens in his journey, and the Ark contains the sun's course measured on a terrestrial globe. We may now take that rectangle and form it into a cylinder which represents the first 30 degrees of latitude without too much distortion, as we see in the Tibetan Prayer Wheel. The early Greek Anaximander (550 BCE) is said to have imagined the Earth to be a cylinder floating in space. It doesn't take much looking to see that the prayer wheel exhibit the right geometric properties, including the orbiting body.
You will note that this band of the ark and prayer wheel is also determined by inscribing a hexargam in a circle, which forms a rectangle touching the circle at 30 degrees north and south of the EQ. This is our equitorial viewing circle, and the corners of the rectangle mark Mercury's viewing range on the horizon. For viewing purposes, all the other planets and the sun and moon fall within these limits.
In order to make a map of the zodiac belt in the sky we draw the same rectangle that reaches to 31 degrees (24 + 7).
The Ark of the Covenant is described as being 2.5x1.5x1.5, which converts to 5x3x3. It has the same profile from the side and the top, 3x5. 3/5= .6 . Tan 31 degrees =.6. The diagonal angle created by the outside dimensions of the AoC is 31 degrees, one of the numbers we are looking for. The outside represents Mercury's range and the inside the sun's path. Remember it is described as being lined in gold, and with rings and poles we get the image of the rectangle and parallel lines.
As you know, the sun only ranges to 23.5 degrees, while the moon ranges to 28+ degrees. Churchward states that the Egyptian Lodge was built in the form of a double square, end to end, because it represented Heaven and Earth, each being a square; but that the primary formation was a circle. We find that if we inscribe a double square in a circle, it looks like the figure above, but it touches the circle at 26.5 degrees instread of 30. This falls mid-way between the sun and the moon's paths. 30 or 31 degrees appears to 'work' better in that that's Mercury's range (the widest) and it provides a conceptual border around the inner rectangle of the sun's range.
If we consider the dimensions of the coffer in the King's Chamber of the GP, we see a foot print of 89.62 x 38.5 for a ratio of .430. The tangent of 23.5 degrees is 0.4348.
The sugestion that the lodge should be one third wider than a square, produces a 3x4 rectangle and the 3, 4, 5 triangle, but that touches the circle at 36+ degrees? The hexagram and 30 degrees (ark at 31 degrees) as the boundary for all the planets appears to be a safe bet. Below we see the seven celestial spheres mapped to a hexagram.
It should be noted that the length-to-width ratio of the Yucatan ballcourts remained relatively constant at 4-to-1; that's four squares on end, two double squares. While the double square touches at 26.5 degrees, the four square marks 14 degrees on a circle. The center line here is not the equator as in the lodge, but it is the ecliptic, the apparent path of the sun. The 14 degrees pertains to the zodiac belt that surrounds the ecliptic at the range of Mercury. What we call the 'latitude' is the distance in degrees of a planet above or below the sun's position (0 to 7 degrees). If you imagine the maypole to be the ecliptic, the ribbons depict this patterning.
Some Principal Distinct from Astronomical Phenomenon?
Bromwell writes , "It may be suggested that the circumambulation is possibly not connected to the course of the sun, but is based on some principle distinct from any astronomical or terrestrial phenomenon. If this be so, what is the signification actually involved? There must be some reason for any ceremony found in the Masonic Lodge". To which AE Waite recommends that circumabulation is not illustrating what he calls a festival of astronomical mythology, nor the movements of the sun and moon, but rather, 'the harmonious evolution of time and its ages about the Eternal Center, the activity of the human race around the repose of God'.
In short, he like Mackey is denying an astronomical basis to what is implied above. It is like the magic circle, the same system but stripped of the astronomical component. Presumably, because he is a Mason, Waites will want to tell us that the notion of Harmony derives from our study of Geometry in Creation, but that only points us to Astronomy again and not away from it. When we look for a model for a ritual that entails circumambulation and which promotes the study of the twin arts of Geoemtry and Astronomy, it is silly to suggest that the movement of the sun, moon, planets and the stars is not that model.
I agree with Bromwell that the ritual is NOT new, and that it IS based on the form and situation of the earth in the solar system and cosmos, and that it is in need of restoration. Just as in the Masonic Legend, we find ourselves attempting to reconstruct the ritual after it has fallen into disuse, just as when the Hebrews were in exile after the Temple was destroyed. Which is not that difficult once you understand the task; designing myths, rituals and temples that reflect the harmony, measures and relations found in the visible cosmos. The idea is always that the visible reflects the invisible.
When we look for an Original Universal Ritual we notice similar motifs found scattered through time and all across the world that are all tied to Round Dances. We can say that similarities in structure and theme are strong evidence for a common origin for these. If we can say that the earliest model for dance was the universe, as it was performed in a circle around the altar to reflect the motions of the cosmos, we can suggest that these danced magical circles were the first sacred rites in the world.
When we look at the structure of the different forms that this dance takes, we see that there are forms that are and are not bi-directional dances. We have already discussed the idea of Universality of the ritual, and the need to include the southern hemisphere view above. This is shown in mythologies that deal with the 'underworld' like the ball game. Other than that, the idea is to invoke Harmony and Order just like the Divine Order that we see when we study Geometry and Astronomy.
The Tree of Life
If you have studied the Tree of Life you will know that it was intended to illustrate the legend of the soul's journey from the stars (the heavens) through seven planetary spheres to the earth and back again. As the quintessential symbol of transcendence, the Tree of Life and the System of Sepheroth were intended primarily to provide conceptual intemediaries between Deity and the material world, to bridge the gap between the finite and the infinite, the micro and macrocosms, and the model that philosophers used was the solar system.
In 1993 Llewwllyn's Worldwide published an English translation of Cornelius Agrippa's Three Books of Occult Philosophy edited and annotated by Doanld Tyson. In Appendix VI The Sepheroth (p 754), Tyson suggests that the most important association attached to the spheres on the Tree of Life is 'the series of ten divine names' and that the association of the spheres of heaven with individual sepheroth is of 'far less philosophical importance' than the names of God.
I would like to suggest that the above shows that the association with the heavenly spheres is not of less philosophical importance than the divine names, but is integral to the notion of the tree itself, just as Astronomy as well as Geometry are essential to Masonry. Removing astronomy destroys the whole system.
The Nine Arks of Enoch
We can now say that the Mysteries were dramatic representations of the 'journey of life' or the 'soul's journey' which were based on astronomical models, that is, which served as astronomy learning tools. While there are innumerable combinations of astronomical data from which to cobble myths, there appear to be favorite ways of depicting 'incarnation'. Literalists see a triad of birth, life and death, or some variation of that theme. This can translate to sunrise, noon and sun set. Death is connected with the idea of sunset and going below the horizon, and resurrection with coming back up here. The southern hemisphere is demonized.
Some cultures symbolically connect sundown with the notion of the soul (sun) entering the body (earth), and begin their day at sundown and their year at the September Equinox. The eye of god is blinded at night just as the soul is entombed in the body. Dawn represent the relase of the soul, which is in its proper place at noon. Similar ideas can be developed about the moon, or the realtionship between the sun and the moon which can be seen as coupling at new moons and as exiled from one another at the full moon.
When the legend of the soul's journey is modeled on the planetary spheres, vertical metaphors are used instead of circular ones; the ladder is the most common symbol used. The Greeks taught that the soul comes from and returns to the stars (or Milky Way) via seven planetary spheres; when you add the earth and the stars you get a total of nine spheres. (The ladder represents the intervals between the planets.) This should remind you of Enoch's chambers and the cube which he deposited in the lowest one, which is the earth. Also of the Dream of Scipio by Cicero, where he describes a temple as a model of the cosmos and the earth as the the ninth and lowest of the spheres and places it at the center of the temple.
As you can see, Scipio's Dream describes the temple as being designed as nine concentric circles just like the World. The implication is that the size of the object at the center which represents the earth, is proportionally related to the size of the temple as the earth is to the solar system. It's a scale model in other words. In the symbolic lodge, the stone of foundation occupies the center point.
Bromwell describes the relationship between the stone, the square floor of the Master's Degree which occupies symbolically the square between 23.5 degrees of latitude, the 45 degree square of the Fellow Craft Degree, and the 90 degree square of the Entered Apprentice Degree. The stone lies in the inner circle, the Master's floor inside the fifth circle, the 90 degree square inside the eight circle. Nine spheres from stone to earth, and nine from the earth to the extent of the system. Hopefully the conection between all of these nines, and what Fulcaneli calls the nine steps of the alchemical process, to the nine month human gestation period has not been lost on you.
In the Sufi frame work, the sun is the 'conceptual' center of the ritual and the dancers are obiting the sun, as in the times when the fire stood in the center of the ceremony; this is a heliocentric scheme. In the geocentric scheme the altar in the center represents the earth, and the fire is removed to the east (see the magic circle above). We can say that both systems 'work' once we understand the presmises of the representation (the logic behind the symbolism). Note that the only diference between Ptolemy's system and that of Copernicus, is that he put the sun at the center, rather than the earth and moon.