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Message of the
Traditional History First Part
declared itself as a peculiar system of morality veiled in allegory and
illustrated by symbols. An allegory is a short story that has deeply hidden
truths. The message that is veiled in an allegory and those illustrated by
symbols need not be a single one. In Masonry one allegory has many messages to
convey and they are revealed according to the vision and viewpoint of the seer.
Traditional history first part is a perfect example of this.
The story in
short is that three impatient fellow crafts wanted to know the secrets of the
third degree and they decided to get them from our Master Hiram Abif and they
were prepared to use violence if necessary to get those secrets. They posted
themselves at the south, north and east entrances of the temple respectively,
waiting for our Master’s arrival. Our Master Hiram Abif having done his duty for
the day was attempting to leave the temple by the south entrance at the high
hour of 12’O clock. There he was encountered by the first ruffian who demanded
the secrets of the third degree. Our master being true to his obligation,
refused to reveal the secrets and the ruffian being armed with a plumb-rule
aimed a violent blow at our Master’s fore head. The blow missed the target but
just glanced our Master’s right temple. The force though not damaging made our
Master to lose a little balance and sink a little on his left leg from which he
managed to recover. The south entrance being blocked by the first ruffian, our
Master ventured to leave by the north entrance where he was encountered by the
second ruffian who made similar demands like the first ruffian. Our Master gave
him the same reply as earlier. Being armed with a level and being angered by our
Master’s refusal to reveal the secrets, he struck a violent blow on our Master’s
left temple, which made our Master to hit the ground on the right knee.
Staggering and bleeding our Mater attempted to leave through the east entrance
where the third ruffian was waiting and the refusal by our Master to reveal the
secrets resulted in the ruffian striking a lethal blow on the fore head with a
heavy mallet. The blow was so fatal that our Master was laid on the grave.
1st ruffian struck, the damage or injury to our Master was only minimal.
When the 2nd
ruffian struck the damage was severe.
When the 3rd
ruffian struck the blow was fatal and our Master was laid to the grave.
varying degree of injury has to be noted and it has to be correlated with the
later part of the article.
this allegory conveys is quiet obvious that a Mason should not disclose the
Masonic secrets improperly even if it would cost him his life. Well, secrecy
regarding Masonry could have been very important for the organisation and valued
upon at the time when Freemasonry was founded which was many centuries ago.
There were times in history when there was no freedom for the common man to
think or speak. Thinkers and philosophers were considered as criminals and were
given very severe punishments. Hence secrecy could have been a need of the hour
for Freemasonry then. Under present circumstance secrecy does not have the same
need as it had in the earlier days. Today there is freedom of speech, freedom of
religion and the liberty to think. All about Freemasonry, including the signs,
passwords etc are all available in the internet. It is now accessible to anybody
who wants to know. Therefore a question arises at to whether the present
situation implies that the above story of sacrificing one’s life to preserve the
secrets of Freemasonry has become redundant. If it has become redundant then
this story need not be told during every raising ceremony. Well, it may appear
that our obligation to the secrecy aspect of Freemasonry has lost its
significance but the story is not redundant because it has other message to
The virtue of honouring one’s promises as shown by our Master Hiram Abif is the
message to be picked up from this allegory. In life, we make a number of
assurances to our family members, promises in our business and professional
activities and we make various commitments in our social life. Every
transaction, every deal in our business is a promise to be fulfilled and this is
the why the wordings in our currency notes say ‘I promise to pay the bearer the
sum of Rs.—.’ The virtue of honouring one’s promise as told in the story when
often heard would strengthen the determination we have to fulfill our
commitments even in adverse situations.
allegory also conveys the message that when unworthy persons, persons who are
not fit and proper, persons not having good report are admitted into Freemasonry
like the three ruffians, it will be detrimental to the organisation and harmful
to the members.
allegory has more to convey. Seen from a philosophical view point, this story
can never become redundant for it has hidden messages that will have value as
long as human race exist. In fact it illustrates the way the human being
functions. The three ruffians represent ‘THOUGHT DESIRE AND ACTION’, Hiram Abif
represents a ‘HUMAN BEING’ and the temple represents the limited ‘WORDLY LIFE’.
Just as Hiram Abif is unable to leave the temple being blocked by the three
ruffians, we human beings are unable to free ourselves from the limitations of
this worldly life being blocked by the ruffians thought, desire and action. Our
lives are filled with the pair of opposites like joy and sorrow, pain and
pleasure, success and failure, birth and death etc. In the Presentation of Grand
Lodge Certificate address, it mentions that the chequered design on the floor of
our temple symbolically represents the pair of opposites. We are unable to
liberate ourselves from the chequered existence surrounding us.
five sense organs we come into contact with this world and the objects of the
world. Once a contact is made, a thought arises in the mind regarding the
object. The thought is the first ruffian who has arrived. He strikes us but the
damage is only minimal. The thought about that object leads us to the desire to
possess the object or to experience the object. The second ruffian has arrived
hitting us in the form of desire causing more damage to us then the first
ruffian. When we succumb to the desire action is born. Action is the third
ruffian who works to fulfill the desire. When he strikes the blow is fatal and
we are brought to the ground meaning that we die one day having led our life to
be beaten constantly by these three ruffians thought, desire and action. We are
caught, prisoned, conditioned and bonded by these three ruffians. The story
highlights that we are slaves to the three ruffians called thought, desire and
action and we die unable to free ourselves from the chequered existence.
of freeing oneself from the three ruffians is revealed in the Charge to Brethren
portion. Hiram Abif is lying in the grave symbolizing a human being beaten to
death by the three ruffians thought, desire and action. The Junior Warden
attempts to lift Hiram Abif by the Entered Apprentice Grip but fails to lift him
out of the grave. The Entered Apprentice Grip represents the first degree. The
first degree awakens the ignorant Mason and preaches him moral values so that he
becomes free of every baneful and malignant passion. The first degree attempts
to purify the mind of the Entered Apprentice Mason and by it make him fit to
receive the divine knowledge and truth. The failure of the Junior Warden to lift
our Master Hiram Abif from the grave indicates that living a moral life is not
sufficient to liberate us from our chequered existence and the birth and death
Senior Warden attempts to lift Hiram Abif from the grave by the Fellow Craft
grip and he also fails. The Fellow Craft represents the second degree. The
second degree instructs a Fellow Craft to study the liberal arts and sciences
and extend his research into the hidden mysteries of Nature and Science.
Essentially the second degree is about gaining knowledge. The failure of the
Senior Warden to lift our Master Hiram Abif from the grave indicates that
knowledge alone will not be sufficient to free us from our chequered existence
and the birth and death cycle.
Junior and Senior wardens both failing, the Master raises him by the five points
of fellowship assisted by the two wardens. The five points of fellowship are,
hand - I greet you as a brother
Foot - I will support you in your laudable undertakings
knee - The posture will remind me of your wants
Breast - I will keep your lawful secrets as that of my own
Back -I will support your character in your absence
in your presence
above communication, the well fare of the other person alone is considered.
There is no selfish interest at all in these five points of fellowship. The
communicator’s personal wants are absent. The moral of the story is that when a
person loses his selfish attitude and lives for the welfare of his fellow
creatures, he even transcends death. One who has shed his selfish ego, loses his
limited nature also. He becomes unlimited. He becomes a free person, free of all
forms of conditions and bondages that we experience in this world. He becomes
one with the existence. The individual has merged with the totality. The part
has joined the whole. He has become immortal. This is what is meant by climbing
the Jacobs ladder to reach the throne of God.
illustrates the ultimate goal a human being should have and the means of
achieving it is by living a moral life as preached in the first degree, by
gaining divine knowledge as instructed in the second degree and finally losing
one’s ego and selfishness.
wonder whether it is possible to live in this manner. Well, history has shown us
that there were many noble souls who lived like this. Gautham Buddha, Jesus
Christ, the numerous saints of the east, the rishis and munis of our country are
all examples, who have shown the world that it is possible to live in this
manner. Such noble persons who had lived in recent years that come to my mind
are Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Theresa.
We all know that Mahatma Gandhi the father of our nation sacrificed his entire
life for the freedom of this country without expecting anything in return. Some
of his political decisions may be subject to debate but nobody can question the
integrity and unselfish nature of Mahatma Gandhi. He had no personal wants or
desire at all expect the welfare and freedom for the people of this country. His
wants were minimal and all that he needed was a piece of cloth around his waist.
Because Gandhiji was unselfish and pure he had the divine power in him. The
canons and guns of the mighty British Empire could not stand before him. They
had to withdraw. Such is the power of purity. Such is the power of truth. Such
is the nature of divine power.
followed the three Grand Principles of Freemasonry – Brotherly love, Relief and
Truth. Gandhiji wanted our country to be secular and he wanted Brotherly love to
exist between people of different religions. He wanted relief for the people of
India from foreign rule. He was a staunch believer of Truth and lived
accordingly. He lived a life of morals and virtues which is the requisite of the
first degree. We know that he had acquired divine knowledge through the study
of our scriptures like the Bagavath Gita, Ramayana, the Vedas and the
Upanishads. The objective of the second degree is fulfilled. We also know that
he lived only for the welfare of his people without having any personal wants or
desires as indicated in the five points of fellowship, satisfying the
requirements of the third degree. In fact Gandhiji has lived exactly like the
way the rituals have prescribed. He is a perfect example of a true Mason.
example is Mother Theresa. Though she was born in Yugoslavia she came to India
to serve the needy. She never considered about caste, creed or color while
coming to India. She served the sick and neglected poor people all her life
without expecting any personal gains. Mother Theresa had a home for the sick in
Calcutta and it was situated next to a kali temple. The temple priests did not
like the home being established close to the temple. They disliked the Mother
for this but this feeling changed after the following incident. One of the
priests of the temple became seriously ill due to a contagious disease. No
person was willing to go near him and take care of him. He was left alone to
decay and die. Hearing this, Mother Theresa went to the dying person, carried
him in her arms and took him to her home. When Mother Theresa took him in her
arms, she had no I feeling at all. She did not think of her health, she did not
think of the deadly contagious disease. For her ‘my body notion’ was absent.
Only love and compassion was prevalent in her. This incident touched the other
priests and the head priest said ‘I have been worshiping the Kali idol for
thirty years and only now I am seeing her in person’.
It is said
The one who
kills others for his own survival is an animal.
The one who
lives and let others live is a human being.
The one who
scarifies his life for the welfare of his fellow creatures is a divine being.
Mother Theresa was seen as Goddess Kali.
this allegory at the organization level indicates not to admit unworthy people
into Masonry, at the worldly level it says to honour our commitments and
promises in life, and in the philosophical level it reminds us of the ruffians,
the chequered existence and the manner of freeing ourselves from it.
greatness of our ritual is that one allegory conveys different messages ranging
from a simple moral virtue to the ultimate truth.