Article by H. Jordan Rosoce 32 degree

Posted by: Daniel Genchi

THE Fellow-Craft is introduced to the wonders of his world of art and science through portals flanked by two massive pillars. Detailed description of these pillars in the Books of Kings indicates a style of design common to Egyptian architecture, where a pillar terminates in a capital representing a conventionalized lotus blossom, or the seed pod of that sacred lily. Such twin pillars are frequently found among Egyptian and Sumerian archaeological remains.

The pillars of King Solomon’s Temple, and in fact that entire group of structures, were the work of Phoenician artists, according to the Biblical account. From other sources we gather that these same designers and craftsmen, initiated Dionysiac architects, were responsible for the magnificent palaces and temples at Byblos, the cultural and esthetic center of ancient Phoenicia. The Phoenician realm occupied an area roughly the same as that of modern Syria and Lebanon, and in Biblical accounts is usually cal led Tyre, from the name of its then capital city. Byblos, also known as Gub’l or Gebal, the present-day village of Jebeil, was particularly famous for architects and sculptors.

The twin pillars symbolize the dual nature of life and death, positive and negative or rather active (establishment) and passive (endurance), male and female, light and dark, good and evil, uniting in a central point of equilibrium, the apex of an equilateral triangle; a circle between two parallel uprights. Isis represented standing between two pillars of opposing polarity, the Ark of the Covenant between two Cherubim, Christ crucified between two thieves, are all symbols of the same trinity, the complete ness and perfection of Deity.

That the twin pillars resemble the conventional symbol for Gemini, third sign of the Zodiac, is no accident, but rather due to the common ancestry of the two apparently unrelated symbols.

In some lectures the pillars are said to be 35 cubits high, the height given in II Chronicles, King James Version. Another version of the same source gives the height as 120 cubits. Since the height of the first or outer chamber was probably no more than 30 cubits, the measurement given in I Kings: 18 cubits, seems more likely to be correct. The addition of map globes atop the pillars is a modern invention, with little Biblical or other authority and serving little purpose but to permit the lecturer to h arp upon the advantages of studying astronomy, geography, etc., worthy pursuits but wholely unrelated to the symbolism of the pillars.

Whether the three chambers of the Temple were connected by stairs is debatable. The best-informed scholars believe the Temple roof was flat, in which case the successively decreasing heights of the chambers, plus the somewhat sloping configuration of the site, would require approach and connection by means of either stairways or of some sort of ladder and trapdoor arrangement. Certainly the fantastically elaborate many-storied versions of the Temple depicted by some well-intentioned but ill-informed Bible illustrators and Masonic artists are so illogical and at variance with the few known facts and testimony of both the Bible and history as to seem the figments of a disordered imagination. Josephus stated that the Temple was of Grecian style which implies entablature and consequently a flat roof, although he had the cart before the horse, since Greek architecture was derived from Phoenician, not the reverse.

In any case, the stairway of our lectures is purely symbolic, consisting as it does of the significant numbers 3, 5, and 7. In such a series, 3 symbolizes such qualities as peace, friendship, justice, piety, temperance, and virtue. 5 represents light, health, and vitality- 7 is a symbol of control, judgment, government, and religion.

Three Principle Rounds

Excerpt:  SHORT TALK BULLETIN – Vol.XIII April, 1935 No.4

Published By: Daniel Genchi

“And Jacob went out from Beersheba, and went toward Haran. And he

lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because

the sun was set; and took of the stones of that place, and put them

for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep. And he

dreamed, and beheld a ladder set upon the earth, and the top of it

reached to heaven; and beheld the angels of God ascending and

descending on it. And, behold, the Lord stood above it, and said, I

am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac.”

These words (Genesis XXVIII, 10-13 inclusive)v are the foundation of

that beautiful symbol of the Entered Apprentice’s Degree in which the

initiate first hears”. . . the greatest of these is charity, for our

faith may be lost in sight, hope ends in fruition, but charity

extends beyond the grave, through the boundless realms of eternity.”

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Posted by: Daniel Genchi

Originally published by Bro. William Steve Burkle KT, 32° Scioto Lodge No. 6, Chillicothe, Ohio.  (

The 47th Proposition of Euclid and the Masonic symbol of “The Point Within A Circle” are important in the Craft as symbols of philosophical premise, and are fundamental in that capacity to an understanding of Freemasonry. The Craft is rich in such symbolism, and yet we often fail to recognize that beyond the allegory there often resides greater light in the form of Geometry. The purpose of this paper is not to detract from the metaphoric value of our symbols, but rather to expand the understanding that these symbols, which are in large part based upon regular geometric shapes and which may be constructed using the working tools of the craft. It is the view of the author that many of Freemasonry’s symbols may be used much like intermeshing gears, to arrive at implicit truths and illumination on a level of understanding which cannot be communicated using spoken or written language alone (much like music). Indeed, this feature may be by design a mechanism by which future generations may achieve understanding of Masonic principles in spite of changes in the context of language or inevitable changes in ritual. I therefore present an exploration of how four such symbols, the 47thProposition of Euclid, “The Point Within A Circle”, The Vesica Pisces, and The Divine Proportion are intricately related from the standpoint of Geometry.

Divine Proportion

The Divine Proportion has recently received a great deal of attention by virtue of its inclusion in a popular novel penned by Dan Brown.  Novels aside, the Divine Proportion, also referred to variously as the Golden Proportion, the Golden Mean, or simply as Phi (f) is an interesting Read More…

Remembering Abraham Lincoln, the Freemason?

Thursday April 14, 2011

Abraham Lincoln & Freemasonry

Abraham Lincoln

  On this day in 1865, John Wilkes Booth, an actor and Confederate sympathizer, fatally shoots President Abraham Lincoln at a play at Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C.  The attack came only five days after Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered his massive army at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, effectively ending the American Civil War.
What did Abraham Lincoln think of Freemasonry and why did he never become a member of our fraternity? In 1860 the Grand Lodge of Illinois recessed their meeting being held during the presidential campaign to call on Mr. Lincoln. During that meeting Lincoln is reported to have told the calling committee “Gentleman, I have always entertained a profound respect for the Masonic fraternity and have long cherished a desire to become a member.”

When a Mason told Lincoln during that campaign that all of the other candidates were Freemasons, especially noting that Stephen A. Douglas was a member of the Masonic lodge in Springfield, Illinois (Lincoln’s hometown), Lincoln replied, “I am not a Freemason, Dr. Morris, though I have great respect for the institution.”The primary qualification to become a Mason is the belief in the existence of a Supreme Being. Lincoln had a fervent belief in God. He was an avid student of the Bible and included many Biblical references in his writings and speeches, the most famous being his second Inaugural address and he regarded the subject of religion as a matter of individual conscience.
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Harry Houdini’s 137th Birthday Honoring Masons and Magicians

Masons and Magicians

Written by: Mill Valley Lodge #356, Mill Valley, California, USA

Posted by: Daniel Genchi

In the world of professional stage magic, few names resonate with such acclaim as Harry Keller, Howard Thurston, Harry Houdini, Charles Carter, and Harry Blackstone, Sr. In addition to being brothers in the fraternity of American magicians, each was also an active Freemason. Nearly amazing as the magic acts these great illusionists are famous for is the fact that all of the great magicians made time in their busy lives for Freemasonry: Despite the extensive travel entailed in their careers and all the allurements to the vices of the world, each recognized the value of the Masonic brotherhood.

Masonic Bro. Harry Keller (1849-1922) was the founder of what has been described as the Royal Dynasty of American Magicians. Keller began the tradition of passing the mantle of “Greatest American Magician” to a successor, his Masonic Brother, Howard Thuston. The lineage of the Keller dynasty has over the years passed from Bro. Thurston to Masonic Bro. Dante (Harry Jansen, 1883-1955), to Lee Grable (1919 – present, especially famous for floating and revolving his wife in mid-air as she plays the piano – a variation of Levitation made famous by Bro. Keller), and to the current successor, Lance Burton. However, much of what we know of Keller is learned from his friend Bro. Harry Houdini who was a frequent guest at Keller’s Los Angeles estate and interviewed the great magician to document the history of their craft: Long after Kellar had retired and just a few years before his death, Houdini cajoled his friend on stage for a mammoth show to benefit the families of the men who died when the troop transport Antilles was sunk by a German U-boat. Houdini arranged for Kellar to be carried off in triumph after his final public performance, as six thousand spectators sang Bro. Robert Burns poem “Auld Lang Syne.”

An amusing anecdote related to Bro. Keller’s Masonic membership was when he was shipwrecked in the Bay of Biscay and his Blue Lodge diploma went to the bottom of the sea. It was later recovered by divers who brought up baggage from the sunken steamer. Bro. Keller later remarked it had been viewed by Grand Master Neptune and returned.

Bro. Howard Thurston (1869-1936) was initiated in Manitou Lodge No. 106, New York City, on July 22, 1907. He received the 32° in New York City on July 10, 1910, and later became a Noble of New York’s Mecca Shrine Temple (Mecca is the first and oldest Shrine Temple, having been established in 1871 by actor Bro. William J. “Billy” Florence, Bro. Dr. Walter M. Fleming, and others). During Thurston’s stage show, he was known to say, “pronounce the magic word ‘Hiram Abif’ and the rooster and the duck will change places.” Through this patter, he prepared his audience to be amazed and, also let his Masonic Brothers know that a fellow Freemason was on the stage.

Bro. Thurston said of Freemasonry: “I sometimes think that the traveling Masons have more opportunities of being both proud and glad of the social distinction designated by the Square and Compasses than those who remain home most of the time. This is certainly true of a public entertainer, and especially of a magician…. What a wonderful thing for a stranger to be able to meet the best men of the community as a brother and a friend!”

Bro. Keller and Thurston’s contemporary, Bro. Harry Houdini (born Erich Weiss, 1874-1926) passed his own secrets only to his biological brother Theodore Weiss who performed under the name, Hardeen. The brothers began their magic act playing lodge banquets, beer halls, dime museums and any other bookings they could obtain. By 1919, Bro. Houdini’s fame as an escape artist had spread world wide. One illusion he never attempted was the bullet catch, of which his friend, Bro. Harry Keller warned Houdini that there were too many things that could go wrong and requested that he not do the stunt: Houdini had announced that would try the stunt after well known headlining magician Chung Ling Soo (also a Bro. Mason whose real name was William Ellsworth Robinson) had been killed performing it, but assented to Bro. Keller’s sage advice.

Harry Houdini was initiated in St. Cecile Lodge No. 568, N.Y., July 17, 1923, Passed July 31, and Raised August 21. In 1924 he entered the Consistory. Houdini gave back to the Masonic fraternity of which he was so proud, including giving a benefit performance for the Valley of New York which filled the 4,000 seat Scottish Rite Cathedral and raised thousands of dollars. In October 1926, just weeks prior to his untimely death on that Halloween, he became a Shriner in Mecca Temple. Read More…

Some thoughts on the history of The Tracing Boards

Presented at the Vancouver Grand Masonic Day, October 16, 1999
Written by: Bro. Mark S. Dwor, Centennial-King George Lodge No. 171, Richmond

Posted by: Daniel Genchi


I first gave a variation of this particular talk in May, 1996. I have given it a number of times since. Every time I’ve given the talk the analysis, although not the facts or the substance, changes slightly. As I have now had time to once again reconsider this and am now obligated to present the talk in written form, I also feel somewhat obligated to explain not so much my research, as meandering as it might have been, but rather the various pieces of Masonic history that are linked to Tracing Boards. The history of Tracing Boards actually is fairly easy to describe, but how it fits into the larger context of Masonry and why it is that we are now required, in the Canadian work, to actually use Tracing Boards is quite a complex story. I must assume that the majority of readers of this paper will be in the same state of darkness that I was when I approached this topic however, for those of you who already know much or most of what I am about to describe, I hope you do not mind a refresher course, and to those to whom some or all of this is new, I trust you will find it as intriguing as I have.

When I refer to the Canadian Ritual that is used in this Province the reference is to the British Columbia Canadian Work as authorized by Grand Lodge on June 23, 1955 and amended to 1983. When I refer to the Antient Ritual it will be to British Columbia Antient Work, approved by Grand Lodge June 2, 1962. When I refer to the transactions of the Quator Coronati, I will use the abbreviation AQC. I’m going to present some conclusions right now, so you can better understand where the topic is going:

1. Much of what needs to be known about Tracing Boards is known. The people who made them and the Lodges that use them are all fairly well documented. This part of Masonic history does not fall into “from time immemorial.”

2. The time frame when the Tracing Boards came into being is roughly at the very end of the Eighteenth Century and the first decades or so of the Nineteenth Century. The contents of them reflects the reality of Masonry at the time, just prior to and through the process of and after the Lodge of Reconciliation.

3. While we think of the rise of the two rival Grand Lodges in the Eighteenth Century as a time of conflict, in actual fact it was a time of the greatest Masonic growth where the Brethren in the Lodges were experimenting with different methods of communicating the Masonic message to each other and perfecting new rituals.

4. The Tracing Boards are teaching aids. They have taken on a life of their own, which has had some startling repercussions in Ritual work.

5. To understand where Tracing Boards came from, you have to understand where Floor Cloths came from, but that does not necessarily mean that Tracing Boards are an evolution from Floor Cloths. Many Lodges that use Tracing Boards still use Floor Cloths, and some Lodges that use Floor Cloths do not use Tracing Boards, &c. While I am discussing primarily the Tracing Boards that are used in our jurisdiction in the Canadian, Emulation, and Australian Lodges, I do not mean to overlook the Degree charts and Floor Cloths used in the Antient Lodges.

6. The Tracing Boards that we use ought not to be called Tracing Boards, and this has been recognized by commentators for the last 80 years, but the chance of renaming them even 80 years ago was zero and is certainly less than that now.

7. The Tracing Boards were originally designed to lie flat on the floor of the Lodge, and the Tracing Boards that we use now have used the same artistic perspective as did the original Tracing Boards.

8. While the Tracing Boards as a teaching aid can also be an adornment of the Lodge, it is generally agreed by the writers on this topic that the ones that are most commonly in use, particularly in British Columbia, are the least artistically interesting.

9. There appears to be no rule in terms of Ritual that requires the Tracing Boards for the Degrees that are not being worked to be hidden–i.e., if you are in Third Degree, First Degree and Second Degree Boards must not be shown, or conversely, that the Third Degree Board must not be shown while you are in the First Degree.

To understand specifically why these issues were of importance to me, you have to understand why I did the research in the first place. Two years prior to giving the talk on Tracing Boards, I had given a talk at my Lodge on art and imagery in Masonry. While I was doing research on that, specifically reviewing the wonderful colour reproductions in Freemasonry A Journey Through Ritual and Symbol by W. Kirk McNulty,1 two groups of questions arose in my mind..

The first question group was, why the Third Degree Board is almost always on display, and why the First Degree Board, which to me is the most interesting, is only seen briefly during a typical meeting when we are going into the First Degree. Because we are in British Columbia we are obliged to do our business in the Third Degree, but that is really not much of an answer.

The real question is why that Board needs to be tucked away when we were not in the First Degree. The obvious answer, of course, is that in a functional basis there is no place to display all three Boards at the same time. There does not appear to be any particular ritual requirement for the lack of display of one Tracing Board or another. The only requirement is for a Tracing Board of the particular degree to be displayed specifically when the degree is being worked.

In the Canadian Ritual the Senior Deacon displays a Tracing Board and the working tools of each degree separately. First Degree, (pages 6 & 17); Second Degree (pages 15 & 16) and Third Degree (page 13). There is no requirement for the placing of the Tracing Board for the First Degree Tracing Board Lecture, rather the Candidate is taken to the Junior Warden Station and the Junior Warden delivers the lecture on the Tracing Board (page 38). Similarly, in the Second Degree, the Candidate is taken to the West, where the Senior Warden delivers the Tracing Board Lecture (page 70). In the Third Degree the Deacons conduct the Candidate to the Master Mason’s Tracing Board and the Worshipful Master points out its features, which are limited to the ornaments of a Master Mason’s Lodge i.e. the porch, the dormer and the square pavement (page 100).

I will be touching on certain issues regarding ritual, but this talk is not about Tracing Boards and the ritual; that is a somewhat separate topic which has been dealt with by VW Bro. Jim Bennie in a talk he delivered to the Vancouver Lodge of Education and Research about two years ago. I did not include a copy of his paper because it did not necessarily deal with some of the issues that I have raised, nor should I expect anyone else to deal with my singular concerns.

The second question group deals with something on the typical First Degree Tracing Board, that is on the “Jacob’s Ladder,” the images for the three cardinal virtues–that is, Faith, Hope and Charity–typically had a cross for faith. As I looked into the pictures of the early Tracing Boards, I realized that none of them had a cross for Faith; in fact, the cross did not appear in the Tracing Boards until the 1860s.

The question then raised was, if Freemasonry is inclusive not exclusive–that is, if it is designed to include all religions and not exclude any religion–why was the symbol of Faith a cross?

I must admit I pondered this for a long time because I knew that if I had gone to my Brethren and raised this issue the matter would have been resolved very quickly, as it was in fact when I did raise the issue, by simply pasting a large F over the cross. In some of the earliest Tracing Boards, Faith, Hope and Charity were represented with the capital letters “F”, “H” and “C”. But there was an intellectual, not just a religious, problem here, and that was figuring out why it was that Freemasonry was nondenominational, save and except the belief in a Supreme Being.

The Jacob’s Ladder with the symbols being a cross for Faith, an anchor for Hope and a heart for Charity, has taken on a life of its own apart from its Tracing Board significance. It is one of the few pieces of Masonic symbolism, aside from the square and compasses (with or without the G) that is known worldwide. I’ve seen it in publications as far afield as an Argentinian Masonic magazine. Read More…

Rough and Perfect Ashlar: Stones which symbolize Man’s moral and spiritual life

Posted by: Daniel Genchi

Excerpt from:

Rough and Perfect Ashlar

Cutting stone to uniform shapes and sizes requires the skill and experience of a true craftsman with many years of experience.

This is why, historically, only large edifices (buildings) were made of ashlars (rather than brick or wood), due to the necessity (and difficulty) of assembling the many skilled craftsman needed to complete the many subsets of knowledge such as how to build a stone archway, how to lay foundation stone, and how to lay stone, one atop another to great heights…not to mention the artisans who sculpted the stones into ornamental shapes.

In days of old, apprentice masons cut and raised the Rough Ashlars from the stone quarry under the supervision of more experienced craftsman, called Fellowcrafts.

The work was accomplished under the watchful eye of the Master masons of the craft…those who had proved their ability to make their Master’s piece to the satisfaction of their superiors.

In Freemasonry, there are 2 forms of ashlars.

Rough Ashlar

In operative Freemasonry, the rough ashlar represents a rough, unprepared or undressed stone.  In speculative Freemasonry, a rough ashlar is an allegory to the uninitiated Freemason prior to his discovering enlightenment.

Perfect Ashlar

Operatively, the Perfect ashlar represents the dressed stone (after it has been made uniform and smoothed) by use of the working tools, the common gavel, (mallet) and chisel.  (The chisel may be found in English Freemasonry, but is not used in the United States as a Freemason symbol.)

Only after the stone has been dressed by an experienced stonemason, can it be suitable to be placed into the architectural structure or building.

Speculatively, a Perfect Ashlar is an allegory to a Freemason who, through Masonic education, works to achieve an upstanding life and diligently strives to obtain enlightenment.

Rough and Perfect Ashlars

In the Fellowcraft Degree, we see the use of the Rough and Perfect Ashlars.  The lesson to be learned is that by means of education and the acquirement of knowledge, a man improves the state of his spiritual and moral being.

Like man, each Rough Ashlar begins as an imperfect stone.  With education, cultivation and brotherly love, man is shaped into a being which has been tried by the square of virtue and encircled by the compasses of his boundaries, given to us by our Creator.

Rough and Perfect Ashlar: Fitted For The Builder’s Use

In ancient times, quarried stone which could be easily shaped into desired configurations, was called “freestone”.  Typical freestones are limestone and sandstone.

Then, as now, only after refining and smoothing these rough stones into their desired shape, were the stonemasons able to “fit them for the builder’s use”. Read More…

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