Memento Mori-Death and the Mysteries

From dust we came and to dust we all must return…

Masonic symbolism and ritual is riddled with images and symbols of our mortality. Why is this? Is it because the fraternity is morbid, or is there a deeper, philosophical reason behind it?

There are very few things that we can all be certain of in this world, but our mortality is not one of them. We all will inevitably come to an end and thus continue the infinite cycle of life. We have always been taught to fear death, ever since we were old enough to understand what it is. But do we really know what it is? The simple answer is “no”. Many mystical traditions teach that death is not the end, but the beginning of a new life. This concept caries through nearly every religious tradition up to the current day.

Death as a symbol is very powerful. It reminds us of the short time that we have here. When we face our mortality it has a profound effect on our consciousness. Not only does it remind us that we should make the most of our short time on earth and to do good in the world, but it also helps us accept that change is inevitable and that we should embrace the unknown. It is also symbolic of the endless cycle of the universe. The universe is constantly dying and being born again. It is this concept that brings us to symbolic death and rebirth.

We see this concept of death and rebirth in the majority of, if not all ancient religious traditions. We see this in the slaying of Osiris by Set and his Resurrection, by Jesus’s death and Resurrection, etc. It is the death of the material and the birth of the spiritual.   It is symbolic of a new start that an individual has after becoming enlightened, or saved. It also serves the reminder that we must do our best to live life to the fullest and not take anything for granted. With this rebirth, after a symbolic death, we are encouraged to start anew, with a new sense of obligation to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures.

The symbolism of Freemasonry contains many references to death, or Momento Mori. As previously discussed in my blog, the Chamber of Reflection is a perfect example of Masonic symbolism in which the individual is brought face to face with their own mortality. The Chamber consists of a dark room, lit only by candlelight, a table with various symbolic items including a skull, and an ink well and quill for writing a last will and testament. There is also a bible, or holy book that the candidate must read certain passages from that remind them of the importance of living a virtuous life.

Another instance of death symbolism in masonry is in the Legend of Hiram Abiff. Hiram Abiff is the craftsman that is brought in by King Solomon and Hiram, King of Tyre to adorn Solomon’s Temple. Hiram Abiff is given the keys to the mysteries by King Solomon and is the Master Craftsman of the Temple. He is later accosted by three ruffians who hope to obtain the secrets from him, but he refuses, as they are not ready to receive them yet. They end up taking his life. Hiram Abiff is eventually raised by King Solomon and resurrected, bringing the legend full-circle. It is through this legend as told in the Third Degree that the candidate is taught not to be greedy and to seek what is not entitled to them, but to also understand the virtue in secrecy. They are also taught that they must die a symbolic death, to be reborn as a new, spiritual being.

The trestle board or tracing board (a wooden board with symbols on it) that is used for the Third Degree has a coffin and a skull on it. These symbols are representative of Momento Mori, and of the death of the material that the initiate is to go through on their path to finding Light.

To the casual observer these symbols may be grim, or even frightening, but to the initiate they take on much more positive and reaffirming concepts that can be a constant reminder of the impermanence of life and the importance of living with fervency and zeal and being constantly ready to alleviate the suffering of others in any way possible. In doing so, our existence can be etched into the fabric of time as our charity extends beyond the grave.

3rd Degree Tracing Board

 

Here is another article that I found that relates. Hope you enjoy!

The Skull and Crossbones and it’s Masonic Application

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The Masonic Apron

The Masonic apron is one of the most iconic symbols in Freemasonry. It is the first gift that a Brother Mason is presented with after taking their obligation. We are taught that the apron was used by our ancient, operative Brothers who labored in the quarry and served a practical use at that time. In modern Speculative Masonry, it serves a different, symbolic purpose and is to be worn in the lodge setting and is to be placed upon our lifeless physical body as we prepare to move into the next stage of our existence.

We are taught that it is the most noble badge of a Mason and that it should never become soiled or impure and is made of white lambskin. The color and substance of the apron is symbolic of the purity and innocence that we are expected to live in harmony with as a Mason.  Much of the symbolism of the apron is explained to the new Brother Mason in the form of a lecture. However, as with all Masonic symbolism, there is more to it than is originally explained.

The apron is worn in a different manors, depending on which degree the candidate is receiving. Each one is distinct and different and is explained as such in the lectures. One of the more esoteric aspects of apron symbolism is the shapes that the apron consists of. The apron has gone through various incarnation over time, but has mostly consisted of a square with a triangular flap. This is significant in itself as the apron consists of two of the most simplistic, yet important geometric shapes that are used by operative builders. These shapes are also incredibly important in all Masonic teaching. The triangle and square appear time and time again throughout all Masonic symbolism and philosophy.

The serious student of esotericism will also note that the apron is representative of the Pythagorean theorem, which Masons (both operative and speculative) hold dear to their hearts. The triangular flap has three points, the square of the main covering has four points, and when combined, there are five points. These are the four corner points of the square and the point of the triangle as it lays upon the square. This is 3, 4, 5 of the Pythagorean theorem.

The apron is also used to subdue our passions. As the apron is worn at the waist and extends downward over the sex organs, it is a reminder that we must control our lower, sexual nature and not let it rule over us in our daily lives. It is imperative to the spiritual seeker to learn to subdue this lower, animal nature to purify the soul. It is also the location of the Root Chakra that we must all learn to overcome to advance on our spiritual path.

There are many more aspects to the Masonic Apron that can be studied and meditated upon. Check out the following links for further information, and while you’re there, check out some of the other great articles that they each have to offer. Enjoy!

Masonic Apron Symbolism by Greg Stewart of masonicinformation.com

The Symbolism and Design of the Masonic Apron by phoenixmasonry.org

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The Point of a Sharp Instrument-Top 10

Number 3

In this installment, I discuss the mysterious Philosophers Stone. Is the stone a real object, or is it purely symbolic. Check out the article to learn more about this enigmatic topic!

The Philosopher’s Stone-The Key to all of the Mysteries?

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The Point of a Sharp Instrument-Top 10

Number 7

In this post, I delve into the  misunderstood symbol of Venus. The planet Venus, which was named for the Greek goddess of the same name. Venus was the goddess of Love and represents the Divine Feminine. The planet Venus is also referred to as the morning star that is the first to appear at dawn. In Latin, Venus was known as Lucifer, meaning the “Light-Bringer”, or “Shining One”. This is where everything gets confused as far as Venus as a symbol is concerned. Since mystery traditions such as Freemasonry revere Venus, they must be connected to Luciferianism, right?

 

Venus Rising

 

 

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The Point of a Sharp Instrument-Top 10

Number 8

In this installment, I presented the argument that modern science owes a lot to the Ancient Mystery schools and several esoteric schools of thought. The Royal Society was a group of thinkers/scientists/philosophers who joined together to research and present new concepts and inventions and was made up of individuals who were deeply connected with the ancient traditions of alchemy, Hermeticism, and Freemasonry.

Esoteric Wisdom and the Birth of Modern Science

 

V0013122 Royal Society, Crane Court, off Fleet Street, London: a meet

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Number 9:

In this installment, I delve into the symbolism of the inverted triangle. This triangle is one of the most important mystical symbols there is. While most people are familiar with the triangle as a symbol, many don’t realize that the position of the triangle makes a major difference in it’s interpretation.

 

The Inverted Triangle

 

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The Point of a Sharp Instrument-Top 10

Wow! I have been busy lately. Sorry for the lack of posts and articles. Between work and raising a child, I haven’t had time for much else. Anyway, I would now like to present you with my top 10 personal favorite articles/posts that have been presented on The Point of a Sharp Instrument. In the meantime, I am going to keep researching so that I can present some new and exciting articles in the very near future. Thanks for reading!

Number 10:

In this installment, I describe the symbol of the spiral as it relates to the universal pattern and to Masonic symbolism.

Spiral Symbolism in Freemasonry-The Shape of Genesis

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