Symbolical Masonry, by H.L. Haywood, , at sacred-texts.com
The Weeping Virgin. This monument symbol was unknown to the Ritual in the eighteenth century; it is not now found in European systems, nor even in some American jurisdictions. According to such slender evidence as we possess it seems to have been invented by Jeremy Cross, the famous New Hampshire ritualist and pupil of Thomas Smith Webb, though some deny this. According to one tradition, Cross borrowed the idea from a tombstone; according to another he adapted an old picture of Isis weeping over the dead Osiris. Whatever may be the truth of the matter, the symbol is not of such importance as many others. It is an elaborate construction utterly lacking in that quality of naturalness and inevitableness which is found in all the older emblems, so that its very artificiality and complexity invites every man to fashion his own interpretation. Until new light is thrown on its origin we can make no better use of it than is made by the Lecture itself, where it is transformed into a kind of allegorical picture of Hiram's death.
The Temple. The great Temple of Solomon was erected on a table of rock which crowned a Jerusalem hill called Mount Moriah. This hill itself occupies a most conspicuous place in Hebrew tradition, according to which it was variously the spot where Adam was created, where
[paragraph continues] Cain and Abel sacrificed, where Noah built his altar at the subsidence of the Flood, where Abraham offered Isaac, and David erected his altar. The Mohammedans, who inherited so much from the Jews, described it as the "Centre of the World," and "The Gate of Heaven," and Mohammed persuaded his followers that it was from this same hill that he had made his famous "ascent to heaven."
The Temple which Solomon erected there by the assistance of Hiram of Tyre has had an even larger place in the traditions of mankind. Few realise now how high that Temple on Mount Moriah towered in the history of the olden world, and how the story of its building haunted the legends and traditions of times following. Many a church in the Middle Ages was patterned on it, and many a writer, such as Durandus and Bunyan, used it as a symbol of religious truth. In making so much of their symbolism to cluster about this dream-haunted building the early Masons were only following in the footsteps of many others.
Until a half century ago Masonic writers believed that our Craft had been organised during the building of the Temple, even in detail, and that the Order had survived from then until the present. To-day, there is no need to say, we cannot hold that position, at least, many of us cannot. We have a fairly accurate conception of the size and form of the structure, and we know that it was built by Phœnician workmen, even as our legend asserts, for archæologists have uncovered Phœnician Masons’ Marks on the original foundation stones. What the actual historical connection between the Temple Building and our own Fraternity was still remains covered by obscurity. But while we wait for future research to establish that connection, or lack of connection, we need not abate our interest in the Temple or minimise its importance
to our Ritual, for the Masonry of to-day is interested in it as a symbol rather than as history.
How the Temple found its way into our system is also a debated question. If we accept Vibert's contention that "there is no evidence that we possessed it at all before the eighteenth century" we are still left with the question on our hands, How did it come to be adopted at that time? In 1724 Villalpandus exhibited a large model in London, accompanied by an explanatory handbook, and this created an immense amount of interest in the subject. Some have believed that the Freemasons of that period were so caught by this wave of interest that they worked it into their symbolism; but Brother S. P. Johnston, who went through the records with a fine-toothed comb, announced that he was unable to find one shred of evidence to support this theory. ("A.Q.C.," vol. XII, p. 135.) Brother Rylands, who was second to none as a Masonic scholar, supported this position in the following statement: "No satisfactory reason has so far been offered why the Temple of Solomon and its builders have been selected to play an important part in one division of our legendary history."
Since Brother Rylands wrote the above sentence, Brother A. E. Waite has come forth with a theory that seems reasonable whether it can be accepted as a "satisfactory" reason or not. Holding as he does that many of the Speculatives who were "accepted" during the eighteenth century were Kabbalists in one degree or another he believes that we may have inherited the Temple symbolism from that source. The Kabbalists had made the Temple one of their principal symbols for more than four hundred years and many of their interpretations were strikingly similar to ours. If we accept the theory of Kabbalistic influence—as I, myself, am inclined to do, at least to a certain extent—we may well believe that our
use of the Temple was borrowed from that very influential group of teachers. Be that as it may, we shall always retain the Temple symbolism, for nothing could more adequately portray that which is the great ideal of our Craft—the building up of a Divine human brotherhood here among men.
The Temple was built of wood and stone, and metals taken from the earth; but these materials were so prepared, and so adjusted one to another that a miracle of solemn beauty resulted. We also are gathering together materials which seem earthly or common—men with their fleshly nature, their appetites and passion—and we hope so to prepare and to shape them that in the very act of brotherly union a holy structure of heavenly loveliness will come into existence, a House not made with Hands, in which our human nature will be transfigured. The Temple of Solomon was not an ordinary house of worship, for the worshippers remained in the outer courts; nor was it patterned after the earth or the sun as other temples were, for its entrance faced the East instead of the West. By its orientation and its construction it suggested the system of Heaven and it was designed to be God's dwelling place among men. We also would build a House for God; but whereas the Jews would have Him dwell in a Temple of Stone, we would fain prepare for Him a Temple of Flesh; and our hope is that through the regeneration of men, and through their banding together in a fraternity, the All Highest will tabernacle with us, so that God and Man may abide together in a Holy Eternal House.
The Pot of Incense. The use of incense in worship is almost as old and as universal as religion itself. In ancient days when the gods were supposed to be merely
magnified invisible human beings it was believed that they would enjoy sweet odours as much as men did, so incense was burned on the altar that they might inhale its "unctuous smoke." Where the custom of slaughtering animals on the altar was in use incense was also employed to cover up the odour; this was especially necessary in warm climates where the malodorousness of a dead carcass soon became intolerable. As religious rites became more spiritualised the burning of incense was usually retained, but in a more symbolic way. Thus, in both the Old and the New Testaments, incense is used as an emblem of prayer, as many texts will testify. In the early Christian period when occultism began to take root, the occultists employed incense in their magic rites, believing it to possess some mysterious potency, like a spell. At the time of the Reformation the custom of using incense in Christian churches became almost abandoned, at least by Protestant bodies, but there is a tendency abroad now to renew the custom, not for any occult or theological purpose but simply to add to the pleasures of the church ceremonies.
In Masonry incense is now used only as a symbol "typifying prayer," and such is its significance in the Third Degree lecture. But it must he noted—for it is usually overlooked, in spite of the Ritual's insistence on it—that our symbol is not only the incense itself, but also the pot, or vessel, in which it is kept. If incense means prayer then the pot of incense means the human heart from which prayers arise, and the purport of the symbol is to remind us that only such prayers are acceptable to God as rise from a spirit guileless and pure.
The Beehive. Both the Bee and the Beehive have been used symbolically from a very old time. In some cases,
for what reason it is now hard to guess, the Bee was made the emblem of heaven, as may be seen in certain old Hindoo pictures of the god Krishna wherein Bees hover over the deity's head, and also in similar early pictures of Jesus. Both the Persians and the Egyptians sometimes embalmed their dead in honey because they believed it to possess antiseptic properties; out of this custom, we may believe, arose the latter habit of using the Bee as a symbol of immortality. Alexander the Great, so it is said, was embalmed in this manner; and so, also, were certain of the Merovingian kings. The last fact may explain why the Bee has so often been used symbolically by the French, and why Napoleon, to lend the lustre of age to his upstart dynasty, adopted the insect as his royal emblem. The Bee was used as a symbol of immortality by the Mithraic cult, so popular in the time of the Cæsars, and also by the early Christians, as the catacomb pictures still witness.
The Bee was also used in another order of symbolism. Theocritus tells a charming tale in his Idylls of how Cupid complained to Venus of bee stings and how the goddess archly replied: "Thou too art like a bee, for although a tiny child, yet how terrible are the wounds thou dost inflict!" Anacreon includes the same conceit in his Odes as do other Greek poets, as well as a few of their more modern imitators, such as Manuel de Villegas, the Castilian; Felice Zappi, and even the German, Lessing. Sometimes one will see bees flying about the head of Cupid on old Greek pottery; this is to suggest that as bees steal honey from the rose so does love steal honey from the lips of maidens; and as the stings of the bee are very painful so are the sharp darts of love.
Bees were not domesticated in Europe until the age of the monasteries, when the monks considered a hive an essential part of the equipment, owing to which custom
the Beehive came to be used frequently in Christian symbolism. In their exhortations to the monks the church fathers would point to the hive as an example of industry. In the old Ely cathedral of England a woman weeping over a broken beehive evidently represents a home when ravaged by indolence or drunkenness.
The Egyptians called the bees "an obedient people" because of their faithfulness to the rules of the hive and to order. They are a far-sighted people, always preparing for the future, and their industriousness has become proverbial. Alas! as many Masters have learned, in the lodge as in the hive, there are often many drones! The brother who could discover a remedy for the drone evil would lay the whole Fraternity under everlasting indebtedness to his genius. The bees, as we know, kill their drones with scant ceremony; that would be a swift, but unhappy manner of disposing of ours! How to destroy the dronishness without killing the drone, that, as Hamlet would say, is the problem!