Thursday, April 30, 2009

Also Civilization

Masonry is, at its heart, the mark of civilization. It requires planning, vision, technology and manpower. Groups of people that rely on hunting and gathering, or basic agriculture, seldom have the manpower to spare for projects that take a long time, or don't have a plainly pragmatic purpose. From the classical point of view, religion is practical. Religion informs and insures planting, hunting and life successes. Holy places, therefore, may be viewed as having a practical societal application, beyond social and bonding, which are also important to human survival, and may be served by cultic practices and places.

There are many examples of holy places around the world. Some are more obvious than others, and some have deliberately been efaced by the successors of their particular cult. Exemplifying this are the "high places," spoken of in the Old Testament of the Bible. These religious centers were in competition with the center at Jerusalem, ie the Temple. The Jerusalem priesthood won out in the end, and these centers were destroyed, leaving little or no evidence of their being.

I have chosen to discuss one of the most obvious masonic structures on Earth, and as a consequence of its celebrity, one of the least explored. Stonehenge.

Of course there have been many archeological investigations of this massive structure, begining, perhaps with the Romans, who left markings of their passage carved into the stones. Greek historians wrote about it, and it has been excavated repeatedly up to our day.

Why do I chose this so obvious monument? Because of its implications as a symbol of Masonry in Civilization. The symbols of the structure alone are well known to the Craft, and shan't be discussed at this point, but in the most general terms, I want to look at one symbol, and the overall implication of the monument.

In the first picture, above, you see the first structure of Stonehenge: the henge itself. A henge is a ditch and mound. It forms a false horizon along which an observer located at a Point Within The Circle, may make observations of celestial events, such as sunsets and sunrises, or the rising, setting and travels of other heavenly bodies against a fixed and level horizon. The ditch may be filled with water, and provide another point of view for observation by looking at the reflections of these bodies in the circle of water.

In the second picture, you see "The Long Man of Wilmington," a figure carved through the turf into the underlying chalk. You may notice that he is holding two staves, or columns. In our Craft, the significance of the point in a circle, and the two columns are commonly placed together.

Stonehenge memorializes the two primary solar events of the year, the two solstices; the two columns are reflective of these events as well, as are the saints' days of the Saints John.

So why am I looking at this as a unique memorial? As a unique mark of civilization among people who have been classed as howling barbarians by some archeologists? Why do I see this as unique among paleolithic monuments of the world. Answering these questions is the point of this series of discussions.

Think about the following for our next session: technology, planning, logistics, diplomacy, and devotion.

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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.