Saturday, January 5, 2008

A Bit on Symbolism

Freemasonry is full of symbols. In many of our lodges some of the symbolic items are not emphasised the way they once were. an example of this is the Tracing Board, which used to be shown in most lodges. It was decended from the planning board upon which the Master of Works on a building project would trace out the days work. What would be blue prints today.

In symbolic Masonry, they present a plan for life, and usually are specific to a particular degree or activity. To the right is a modern example. I will not go into the symbolism at this time.
I had an American Lit. Prof. who insisted that when we read, we should "think fat." That most of us "think thin." What he meant is to try to see the broadest possible interpretation of the words, music or picture that we are presented with. This is in keeping with the meaning of LOGOS, the Greek word for word.
LOGOSis the word used in the Gospel of John, where it is said, "In the begining was the Word." It carries a very broad meaning, including all of the meanings of all of the people who have used the word throughout time. For example, what can water stand for? Water will drown you, so it's death; you can't live without water, so it's life; water is changable; water is bright; water is dark; water flows and yields; water disolves everything; water destroys and builds.
Perhaps it's the technological nature of our society that induces us to want precise meanings. This hasn't always been the case. English is a particularly rich language with more words than any other European language, and more ambiguity in its grammar than most.
One problem with English is that its grammar comes from trying to shoe-horn Latin grammar into it. It makes it full of holes, but those holes can be filled with meaning if we "Think Fat."
The same can be said for pictures. They are rich in both specific and implicit meanings. A good example is Breugel's painting of The Kermesse, which shows a party on the feast of St. George

If you look at the painting, there are circles inside circles throughout the picture. The people aren't just dancing, they are engaged in all of the activities of life, not just play, but eating, working, dancing, having sex, drinking and cooking. The houses and dishes are shown. The costumes are detailed. The faces are round, the dancing is in circles, the plates are round, and the openings on the wagon are round. Notice the illustration on the banner. Doesn't it look much like a tracing board? What do we know about circles?
What I'm saying is that the picture is ripe with symbols. People in the days that our fraternity was born were excited by symbols. In a semi-literate society they conveyed meaning beyond the obvious; to the literate they recalled leassons read; to a society with secrets they sent messages to those in the know.

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This blog is the thoughts of a Freemason. It's not affiliated with any Masonic body, and doesn't speak for Freemasonry in any sense of the word. My purpose is to raise questions, not dictate answers. If you read this blog, please comment; please subscribe, so we can look for answers to these questions together.