Masonic ring symbolism: Joshua’s wandering of Jericho
“And it happened the seventh time, when
the priests blew the trumpets, said Joshua
to the people, shout; because the Lord has given you the city. “
As an indication that they are properly and truly prepared to be initiated, approved, and raised in the first three Masonic degrees, candidates for Masonry must bypass the lodge. Also known as a walk, the candidate’s trips during the degree are one of the most important ritual tasks to be performed. Hymns and prayers are recited, drawn from Scripture passages. Depending on whether he is being initiated as an entered apprentice, passed to the degree of fellowship, or raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason, the candidate’s wandering becomes more and more extensive. It is fair to ask why this tradition is followed and what it symbolizes.
The scripture quoted above is from the book of Joshua and refers to the circumambulation of the priests before the collapse of the walls of Jericho. Since it is not likely that the simple blast of the trumpet caused the stone to crumble, either the trumpet symbolizes a much more powerful force, or the entire episode is intended to convey a wiser and more serious truth.
In his recent book, Lost Secrets of the Sacred Ark, Laurence Gardner hypothesized that the trumpet represented a powerful fusion force emanating from the Ark of the Covenant. While that may be true, there is currently no way to confirm or deny that possibility. However, since the Old Testament as well as the entirety of the Holy Bible is littered with allegorical accounts, it is equally likely that Freemasonry, which has been around longer than Mr. Gardner has been writing, adopted the allegorical meaning. as the foundation for the current wandering of candidates in Masonic lodges.
During ancient Deity worship rites, designated holy men solemnly moved around sacred objects in a circular fashion. Such a movement was an integral part of the ritual used by Hindus and Buddhists. In Islam, the bypass is used during holy services in Mecca. In each, the movement was intended to represent man’s spiritual transition from everyday life to spiritual perfection. That transition would take place in stages as each man grew closer in life and education to the spiritual energy of Deity.
This ancient custom is preserved in Freemasonry, but its meaning has been generally forgotten. In some current Masonic organizations there is a tension between those brethren who wish to follow the esoteric lessons taught by the Craft and those brethren who prefer strict adherence to Masonic ritual, which has evolved over at least the last two centuries. Some in the esoteric field say that rigid adherence to ritual neglects the most important principles of ancient sacred philosophy. Certain followers of the “ritual only” field believe that Freemasonry is practiced in its purest form by working towards a “perfect” ritual performance. In the classical Hermetic tradition, both are equally correct and incorrect.
It is dangerous to work in Freemasonry under the belief that adherence to Masonic ritual is not Freemasonry and therefore must be relegated to the trash of past relics. It is no less dangerous to ignore the fact that Masonic ritual enjoys a sacred connection with the religions and philosophies of the past. Most of the time, if one looks closely at the Masonic past, one will discover that there is a holy union between the approved ritual and the esoteric knowledge that it is intended to convey. In fact, a Mason can discover new pleasures by attending ritual performances once he learns more about the rich sacred past.
The candidate’s travels, or wandering around the lodge room, are intended to symbolize the state of spiritual attainment associated with the help of each of the first three degrees of Masonry. As an entered apprentice, the newly initiated Mason learns to humbly submit to the fact that he knows little, if anything, about what the trade teaches. In his state of ignorance, the initiated candidate knows the tools of learning which, when studied under the guidance of the more experienced brethren, will eventually enlighten his spirit. A Fellowcraft is presumed to have mastered the rudiments of Masonic symbolism and is at least knowledgeable about the fact that Freemasonry uses symbols to impart wise and serious truths. His spirit needs solid nourishment and therefore the candidate is led to the study of the liberal arts and sciences, which he is expected to read and understand through the prism of spirituality inculcated by Freemasonry. While continuing to require spiritual nourishment, the Master Mason is expected to take the lessons he has learned and offer them in a useful way to the community in which he resides by living the spiritual life that he has been taught. The walk not only symbolizes the spiritual state of the candidate, but also the three stages of preparation necessary before the world can hope to benefit from that spirituality.
In ancient religious practices, wandering was believed to be a necessary precedent for summoning the presence of Deity. This once ubiquitous practice survives today in several of the occult cultures and has generally fallen out of favor. Freemasonry does not employ wandering in the hope that it will magically make God appear, because the Craft understands and teaches that the Great Architect is always present. Today’s purpose is to provide the candidate and the brethren with a ritual practice that focuses the mind on that presence and instills an attitude of prayer throughout the ritual performance.
Freemasons around the world are very interested in discovering the roots and origins of the craft. University professors across Europe, as well as elsewhere, are investigating historical archives, inspecting new information and reexamining existing material in the hope that one day they will be able to state with certainty where Freemasonry came from. Most likely, those roots and origins are not easily discovered without first understanding that Freemasonry is about man’s relationship to God.
Since time immemorial, man has wondered about the existence of God. The Freemasons fraternity is made up of men who have decided that He exists and who openly profess their faith in His existence. A man cannot become a Mason without believing in the Supreme Being. Although he already has faith in God before joining the Office, a candidate may not have a very developed idea of what that means to him, his family, his friends, and his country. While Freemasonry does not teach that man about the existence of God, it does teach him how God relates to his creations and how we, who are created in his image, can benefit those with whom we come in contact every day. .
What is stated here can be tested by you within the framework of your own hostel. The next time you are sitting in a country house room and watching the ritual walk, be quiet and allow God to speak to your heart throughout the performance. There will be plenty of time to talk to the member sitting next to you after the performance is over. Consider the stages of your own spiritual development and try to identify your spiritual strengths and weaknesses. Then, try hard to improve your strengths and eliminate your weaknesses. If you try this exercise in the lodge on a regular basis, you will most likely find out that you are practicing Royal Masonry, and in doing so you will also discover the basis for the origins of the Craft to which you belong.