by Guest Contributor
James E. Frey
My Brethren, the 28th degree is held by the Scottish rite to be one if its most treasured and cherished degrees of the rite. This is because of its deep philosophical and mysterious nature. Albert Pike’s Morals and Dogma commits 219 pages to its mysteries and explanation of its symbolism. But through all his explanation the most relevant section regarding this degree comes from the first paragraph. “God is the author of everything that existith, the Eternal, the Supreme, the Living and Awful being; from whom nothing in the Universe is hidden. Make of Him no idols and visible images; but rather worship Him in the deep solitudes of sequestered forests; for He is invisible and fills the universe as its soul and liveth not in any Temple!” ( Morals and Dogma, p. 219)
Now as a Mason you are taught in the Ancient craft to build a temple of your character, to build a temple in your heart, and to perfect yourself morally and create a temple by which God can dwell. What Pike believes the main value of this degree is the importance of creation. It is the creation of a better world through the realization of simple truth, that simple truth is the liberation from the darkness of the material to the light of the spiritual. This first paragraph states that God fills the universe with his soul. This is the great teaching of alchemy, to turn lead into gold by the spirit within all material. For man to tap into that divine presence that surrounds us all, to be one with God, that is the true philosopher’s stone, to be connected to the source of all light in this world of darkness. The blackness of material lead to spiritual gold is symbolic of the concept of from darkness to light. You can see where how Rosicrucian teachings begin to reflect our own teachings. Manley P. Hall 33°, in his book The Secret Teachings of All Ages, discusses the Masonic and Rosicrucian connection when he states “The story goes on to relate that the Rosicrucian adepts became dissatisfied with their progeny and silently withdrew from the Masonic Hierarchy, leaving behind its symbolism and allegories, but carrying away the keys by which the locked symbols could be made to give up their secret meanings.” (Secret Teachings of All Ages, P. 450)
In the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction the first candidate of this degree was Elias Ashmole. One of the founders of the first Grand Lodge of England, he was regarded as a known alchemist, suspected Rosicrucian, and “the first gentleman, or amateur, to be accepted” into the Masonic order in 1646 according to Frank C Higgins, a Masonic Symbologist. So it can be said that Masonry came full circle from a trade guild to a philosophical school of thought by the influence and reimagining of the symbols of masonry by the Rosicrucian influence. We can clearly see the influence of Rosicrucian’s into ancient lodge ritual quite clearly. Alchemists are taught to seek the philosopher’s stone, just as we as masons are taught to seek our own quest to seek the lost word. Mackey in the encyclopedia of free masonry writes “The WORD therefore may be conceived to be a symbol of Divine Truth; and all its modifications, the loss, the substitution, and the recovery-are but component parts represents a search after truth.” What Truth? To know the true name of God, to know that divine presence we seek in the material world, but cannot find, except through the mysteries of the soul.
Bro. Charles T McClenechan tell us how to use this truth in the “Book of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite” says “Appropriate truth to your use, let it be the spring from which you shall drink all your days, and you will have in yourselves immortality of the sages.” (P. 400, 1884)
We can see cleared how the symbolism of Alchemy adds weight to this search. Two symbols mentioned in this degree are the red dragon, and green lion. In alchemical symbolism and mythology the red dragon is representative to the heating of the lead, or the burning away of the material to leave only that true essence behind. It is symbolism of Hiram Abiff, the slain builder who is final footsteps we all must walk. He like the dragon is stripped of his material form, his baser instincts, his sinful nature, a soul, the true spiritual form. To the alchemists this spiritual form was one with the source, or God, the Green Lion symbolized this. I also find it interesting that after the slain Hiram is failed to be raised by the previous grips it is the grip of the Lion’s paw that raises him to spiritual rebirth. This is symbolic of that spiritual connection to God. Albert Pike goes into greater detail to explain this symbol his explanation of the 28th degree that “The murder of Hiram Abiff, his burial, and his raised again by the master, are symbols, both of death, burial, and the resurrection of the Redeemer; and of the death and burial in the sins of the natural man and his being raised again to a new life, or born again, by the direct action of the Redeemer; after Morality, symbolized by the entered apprentice grip, and philosophy, symbolized by the fellow craft grip, had failed to raise him, that of the lion of the house of Judah is the strong grip, never to be broken, with which Christ of the royal line of that house, has clasped to himself the whole human race, and embraces them in his wide arms as closely and affectionately as brethren embrace each other on the five points of masonry.” (P. 641)
The truth that men seek after, the search for the lost word, or the philosophers stone is the connection to each other, the connection to the world around us, the connection to God. Universal love for each other, this was the greatest teaching of Christ, and divine truth as its essence. We are all spiritually connected together through the soul that fills the universe, the eternal presence of God, the source of all-light in the darkness, the symbol of the Sun. So when you look upon that final image of the Sun, think to yourself as its light illuminates the entire world, so should our compassion, mercy, and love illuminate those still seeking after truth that has become lost to them.
James E Frey, 32° is a Past Sovereign Prince and current librarian of Valley of Danville AASR. Founder of the R.E.B.I.S Research Society he sits on two Blue Lodge Education committees as well as a guest lecturer on Occultism and Esoteric studies in masonry. He is also a Member of the Oak Lawn York Rite, Medinah Shriners, and Golden Dawn Collegium Spiritu Sancti. He also works as a counselor with emotionally and behaviorally challenged children.