The Travel of the Soul in Solstices and Equinoxes and the Masonic Tracing Boards

Masonic Tracing Boards

               Tracing boards are painted or printed illustrations depicting the various emblems and symbols of Freemasonry. They can be used as teaching aids during the lectures that follow each of the Masonic Degrees when an experienced member explains the various concepts of Freemasonry to new members. They can also be used by experienced members as self-reminders of the concepts they learned as they went through their initiations. From Wikipedia

Ancient Craft Masonry

Craft Masonry was reckoned from the date of the creation of the world –  Anno Lucis  A.L. approximately 4000 years before the Common Era,  as we read in the third verse from the Book of Genesis in the King James version of the Bible as well as in the Torah.

             1:1 – In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth.

            1:2 – And the earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

               1:3 – And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

The History of the Immortal Soul Teaching            

              Ancient Egyptians, like other pagan peoples, observed the unending cycles of nature: in the heavens, the sun seemed to be reborn each morning and die each night; spring was a time of birth, growth, and youth; autumn was a time of decline and old age; in winter plants died and even the sun seemed to fight for its existence; and the following spring the cycle began anew. Historians record that Egyptians interpreted these patterns of life, death, and renewed life as applying to humans as well.

            The concept of the immortality soul teaching came from the Egyptians which civilizations lasted for more than  3,000 years. The countless tombs unearthed by archaeologists along the Nile provide eloquent testimony to the Egyptian belief that man possessed a spiritual aspect extending beyond his physical life.

Passed on to Greeks

               The Greeks got the concept of an immortal soul from the Egyptians.  Plato, the Athenian Philosopher (428-348 B.C.), like his teacher, Socrates was initiated into the Greater Mysteries at the age of 49. The initiation took place in one of the subterranean halls of the Great Pyramid in Egypt.  Plato was the founder of the Academy, an institute for philosophical and scientific research just outside of Athens.

       It was Plato who popularized the immortal soul concept throughout the Greek world.  In the Phaedo, one of Plato’s most famous works, he recounts Socrates’ final conversation with his friends on the last day of Socrates’ life. Socrates declared to them:

           “The soul whose inseparable attitude is life will never admit of life’s opposite, death. Thus the soul is shown to be immortal and since immortal, indestructible… Do we believe there is such a thing as’ death? To be sure. And is this anything but the separation of the soul and body? And being dead is the attainment of this separation when the soul exists in herself and separate from the body, and the body is parted from the soul. That is death… Death is merely the separation of the soul and body.”

Aristotle  (384–322 BC) was an ancient Greek philosopher and scientist born in the city of Stagira, Chalkidiki, in the north of Classical Greece. Along with Plato, Aristotle is considered the “Father of Western Philosophy”, and is known for the Chaldean order of the astrological principles of the journey of the soul by alighting at each of the planets spheres descending from Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, the Sun, Venus, Mercury and the Moon. With the pure essence of each planet collected in its downward movement, the soul arrived at the moon where it waited for the correct moment of the native’s birth where physical manifestation took place and soul joined with the body.

From the Ancient Egyptians, Babylonians,  Greeks, and the Romans,  Freemasons learned from them the writings the philosophies and rituals which became the main principles of Masonic teachings.

Summers Solstice

, the soul descends in Cancer as depicted in the Masonic Tracing Board  of  Entered Apprentice Masons Degree

Masonic Tracing Board 1st degree

Soul descends from Heaven by way of Jacobs Ladder allegory through the tropical point cardinal water Cancer, the Gate of Men.  The canopy of heaven with the hottest time of the year in the Fire Leo Sun combines the two other luminaries, the Moon ruled by Cancer with cluster stars of the Pleiades in Taurus and the Blazing Star Sirius properly illustrated by Masonic Philosophers, a belief emanated from Ancient Egypt passed on to the Greeks and Romans Philosophers.

Roman Writer Macrobius Ambrosius Theodosius (390-430 CE) is famous for his classical Seven Books on Saturnalia. According to Macrobius, the galaxy crosses the Zodiac in two opposite points, Cancer and Capricorn, the tropical points in the sun’s course, ordinarily called the Gates of the Sun.  Through these gates, souls descend to earth and re-ascend to Heaven.  In Cicero’s Dream of Scipio, a discourse on the nature of the cosmos, the Gate of Men; and the other, the Gate of the Gods. Cancer was the former because souls descended by it to the earth, and Capricorn the latter, because by it they re-ascended to their seats of immortality and became Gods.

         According to Macrobius, the soul descended through the spheres of the seven planets as it descends from the highest heavens to manifest as a physical matter on earth. When the soul encounters Saturn’s heaven, the seventh sphere, it gains the power of reasoning and theorizing.

           In the next sphere, the sixth level closer to earth, the soul alights on Jupiter where it showed the Saturn’s gift of reason and critical analysis that can be put into practice so that the soul can direct the earthly body towards success or spiritual enlightenment.

          In the 5th heaven Mars, the soul obtains the passion, courage and zealous qualities to the soul.

         Below Mars, the soul encounters the Sun in the 4th level, where it meets glorious light in the purest form and envisages the potential for its own illumination or enlightenment. It absorbs the Sun’s spirit and brings with it the soul potential during the lifetime.

         In the third heaven Venus, the soul inherits the motion of desires, beauty, and balance.

        At the second level from earth, Mercury bestows the power of language and communication in order for it to be capable of interpreting human feelings and giving expression to its emotions.

        When the soul enters the Moon’ realm the sphere nearest to Earth, the soul absorbs the Moon’s essence which includes the awareness that it will soon experience the changes of physical movement, growth, and eventual decay.

        When the soul is drawn towards the body, it begins to experience a material agitation, matter flowing into it and likens to the human experience of drinking excessive amounts of alcohol as Plato’s remarked in the Phaedo.

The Seven Ages of Man

Moon                     0  –  4               years old

Mercury               4  –   14             years old

Venus                   14  – 22             years old

Sun                        22 – 41             years old

Mars                      41 –  56            years old

Jupiter                    56  – 68           years old

Saturn                    68  –  98          years old

Moon                    98   –  102         years old

 

33 Degree Scottish Rite Freemason Albert Pike’ summarized in his book Morals and Dogma the journey of the soul from heaven to earth;

         “The ancient Philosophers regarded the soul of man as having had its origin in Heaven. That was, Macrobius says, a settled opinion among them all; and they held it to be the only true wisdom, for the soul, while united with the body, to look ever toward its source, and strive to return to the place whence it came. Among the fixed stars it dwelt, until, seduced by the desire of animating a body, it descended to be imprisoned in matter.

              Let us, in order to understand this old Thought, first follow the soul in its descent. The sphere or Heaven of the fixed stars was that Holy Region, and those Elysian Fields, that were the native domicile of souls, and the place to which they re-ascended when they had recovered their primitive purity and simplicity. From that luminous region the soul set forth, when it journeyed toward the body; a destination which it did not reach until it had undergone three degradations, designated by the name of Deaths; and until it had passed through the several spheres and the elements.

               All souls remained in possession of Heaven and of happiness, so long as they were wise enough to avoid the contagion of the body and to keep themselves from any contact with matter. But  those who, from that lofty abode, where they were lapped in eternal light, have looked longingly toward the body, and toward that which we here below call life, but which is to the soul a real death; and who have conceived for it a secret desire,–those souls, victims of their concupiscence, are attracted by degrees toward the inferior regions of the world, by the mere weight of thought and of that terrestrial desire.

           The soul, perfectly incorporeal, does not at once invest itself with the gross envelope of the body, but little by little, by successive and insensible alterations, and in proportion as it removes further and further from the simple and perfect substance in which it dwelt at first. It first surrounds itself with a body composed of the substance of the stars; and afterward, as it descends through the several spheres, with ethereal matter more and grosser, thus by degrees descending to an earthly body; and its number of degradations or deaths being the same as that of the spheres which it traverses.

           This fiction is also found in Virgil. “If souls,” says Macrobius, “carried with them into the bodies   they occupy all the knowledge which they had acquired of divine things, during their sojourn in the Heavens, men would not differ in opinion as to the Deity; but some of them forget more, and  some less, of that which they had learned.”

         The celestial bodies, Heaven, the Stars, and the other Divine elements, ever aspire to rise. The soul reaching the region which mortality inhabits tends toward terrestrial bodies and is deemed to die. Let no one, says Macrobius, be surprised that we so frequently speak of the death of this soul, which yet we call immortal. It is neither annulled nor destroyed by such death: but merely enfeebled for a time; and does not thereby forfeit its prerogative of immortality; for afterward, freed from the body, when it has been purified from the vice-stains contracted during that connection, it is re-established in all its privileges, and returns to the luminous abode of its immortality.

            All this agrees with the doctrine of Plato, that the soul cannot re-enter into Heaven until the revolutions of the Universe shall have restored it to its primitive condition, and purified it from the effects of its contact with the four elements.” …From Morals and Dogma by Albert Pike.

Autumnal Equinox

, the soul with the earthly body is in a temporal sojourn to balance the movement of time in cardinal air Libra, savoring the pleasure of good harvest in the Eleusinian Mystery Rite of Demeter and Persephone.

masonic tracing boards in LIbra

The interlaced male principle and the female denote sexuality, the ancient symbolism of the communion of the Hierophant and the High Priestess to celebrate the bountiful harvest in Hieros Gamos holy ceremony,  the opening and closing ritual of the Masonic Lodge is an analogy.

         As the Time passes, the soul is allowed to rest before moving into the transformative struggles of a Scorpio incarnation. A sense of self, it has been developed during the first six zodiac signs; now, Libra will focus on relationships, on balancing the personality and soul while relating to the external world.

      The person who is Libra incarnated to search for the soul mate. Libra attempts to balance the polarities of life, especially as they relate to the masculine and feminine energies.

The soul was fortunate and happy under the Empire of the first six; and began to be sensible of evil, when it passed under the Balance or Libra, the seventh sign. Thus the soul entered the realm of Evil and Darkness when it passed into the Constellations that belong to and succeed the Autumnal Equinox; and it re-entered the realm of Good and Light, when it arrived, returning, at those of the Vernal Equinox. It lost its felicity by means of the Balance and regained it by means of the Lamb. This is a necessary consequence of the premises, and it is confirmed by the authorities and by emblems still extant.

Sallust the Philosopher, speaking of the Feasts of Rejoicing celebrated at the Vernal Equinox, and those of Mourning, in memory of the rape of Persephone, at the Autumnal Equinox, says that the former was celebrated, because then is effected, as it was, the return of the soul toward the Gods; that the time when the principle of Light recovered its superiority over that of Darkness or day overnight, was the most favorable one for souls that tend to re-ascend to their Principle; and that when Darkness and the Night again become victors, was most favorable to the descent of souls toward the infernal regions.

For that reason, the old astrologers, as Firmicus states, fixed the locality of the river Styx in the 8th degree of the Balance. And he thinks that by Styx was allegorically meant the earth.

Emperor Julian gives the same explanation but more fully developed. He states, as a reason why the august Mysteries of Demeter and Persephone were celebrated at the Autumnal Equinox, that at that period of the year men feared lest the impious and dark power of the Evil Principle, then commencing to conquer, should do harm to their souls.

They were a precaution and means of safety, thought to be necessary at the moment when the God of Light was passing into the opposite or adverse region of the world; while at the Vernal Equinox there was less to be feared, because then that God, present in one portion of the world, recalled souls to Him, he says, and showed Himself to be their Saviour. He had a little before developed that theological idea, of the attractive force which the Sun exercises over souls, drawing them to him and raising them to his luminous sphere. He attributes this effect to him at the feasts of Atys, dead and restored to life, or the feasts of Rejoicing, which at the end of three days succeeded the mourning for that death; and he inquires why those Mysteries were celebrated at the Vernal Equinox.

The reason, he says, is evident. As the sun, arriving at the equinoctial point of Spring, drawing nearer to us, increases the length of the days, that period seems most appropriate for those ceremonies. For, besides that there is a great affinity between the substance of Light and the nature of the Gods, the Sun has that occult force of attraction, by which he draws matter toward himself, by means of his warmth, making plants to shoot and grow, etc.; and why can he not, by the same divine and pure action of his rays, attract and draw to him fortunate souls?

Then, as light is analogous to the Divine Nature and favorable to souls. struggling to return to the first principle, and as that light so increases at the Vernal Equinox, that the days prevail in duration over the nights, and as the Sun has an attractive force, besides the visible energy of his rays, it follows that souls are attracted toward the solar light. He does not further pursue the explanation; because he says, it belongs to a mysterious doctrine, beyond the reach of the vulgar and known only to those who understand the mode of action of Deity, like the Chaldæan author whom he cites, who had treated of the Mysteries of Light, or the God with seven rays.

Winter Solstice

Soul ascends to Heaven cardinal earth Capricorn as depicted by Winding Stair’s representation in the Fellowcraft Degree Tracing Board

masonic tracing boards in Capricorn

Depicted on the tracing board is St John the Baptist at the foot of the winding stair and St John the Evangelist at the entry of the Middle Chamber

             On its return, it restores to each sphere through which it ascends, the passions and earthly faculties received from them: to the Moon, the faculty of increase and diminution of the body; to Mercury, fraud, the architect of evils; to Venus, the seductive love of pleasure; to the Sun, the passion for greatness and empire; to Mars, audacity and temerity; to Jupiter, avarice; and to Saturn, falsehood and deceit: and at last, relieved of all, it enters naked and pure into the eighth sphere or highest Heaven..  from Morals and Dogma

The ascending  pattern  is the reverse  of the descent which starts from the Moon, the Sun, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, then Saturn until enters the eight sphere of the highest Heaven,

All this agrees with the doctrine of Plato, that the soul cannot re-enter into Heaven until the revolutions of the Universe shall have restored it to its primitive condition, and purified it from the effects of its contact with the four elements.” …From Morals and Dogma by Albert Pike.

 A CAPRICORN incarnation is one of initiation—the “gateway through which the Accepted Disciple, having walked the Path of life through nine tests (or zodiac signs), is now ready to culminate her journey and ascend to the Mountaintop.”  (Oken)  Whereas Cancer is the “gate in,” CAPRICORN is the “gate out” where freedom from the personality, by successfully passing the initiatory tests, is granted.

 

Vernal Equinox 

the Master Masons allegory of the death and rebirth of the soul

masonic tracing boards in Vernal Equinox

Let us follow the path of the soul journey in heaven after its ascent to the Gate of the Gods in the Winter Solstice Capricorn.  From Saturn reverse travel to the moon in water element Pisces to end its journey in a symbolical death to reborn again in the vernal equinox. The end of the mystery cycle of the sun to be resurrected again in the spring equinox.

Resurrection is defined as being:

          “a coming to life again; rising from the dead.”

A second definition given for this word is, “a being alive again after death.”

THE HIRAMIC DEATH AND REBIRTH

The Hiramic legend is a symbolic death and rebirth of the soul in the vernal equinox because its teachings and rites are consistent with the Ancient Mystery Schools principles on the immortality of the soul.

Initiation into the Ancient Mysteries was not simply a means of attaining intellectual knowledge or learning. Aristotle wrote that it was actually the “experience” and not knowledge learned, that allowed the initiate to comprehend the secret meaning of the mysteries. This enlightening, transformative experience has generally been termed rebirth and appears to be the central theme of the most important rituals of almost all the Ancient Mystery Schools as well as modern initiates organizations.

At Eleusis, the teaching on rebirth was revealed through the symbolism of Persephone’s descent into the underworld, her ascension from it, and the subsequent return of fertility. In the cults of Osiris, Dionysus, Attis, and Adonis, the main rite is their violent death and rebirth. In Mithraism, we find representations of Mithras slaying a bull whose blood turns into a grain. In Christianity, the unjust crucifixion of Christ leads to the ultimate redemption of mankind. And within Freemasonry, we learn of the murder of our beloved Grand Master Hiram Abiff by three impatient craftsmen and his subsequent raising.

It appears that all the violent deaths—of Osiris, of Christ, of Hiram—have something in common. They symbolize vice, ignorance, and chaos, inevitably slaying the pure self and thereby making rebirth necessary for salvation. These legends reveal the nature of our circumstances and enlighten us to the trials that we must overcome. Only through the death of one’s imperfect self, the leaving behind of the old, and acceptance of transcendent truth, can one truly be reborn into a new self, no longer tainted by the sins of one’s past. In a certain sense, and depending on one’s perspective or religious background, rebirth or regeneration is a process that is constantly occurring.

The main body of surviving Hermetic wisdom is called the Corpus Hermeticum and, incidentally, book 13 of the Corpus is entitled On Rebirth. The text is in the form of a dialogue between Hermes Trismegistus and his son Tat.

Tat begins by asking his father to reveal the teaching on rebirth, by saying that he is now “ready to become a stranger to the world,” as this was the condition that Hermes had previously set forth. Hermes then explains that all things come from God and are one with God, and it is His will only that determines who shall achieve rebirth.

The dialogue continues with Hermes teaching Tat that it is only through mastery of self and transcending of the senses that the Divine intellect, or Nous, can be discovered.

The soul in heaven suffers the symbolical death after completion of its journey to be reborn again as a new soul to start another beginning for its downward descent to earth. The new cycle begins.

“Thus the scientific theories of the ancients, expounded in the Mysteries, as to the origin of the soul, its descent, its sojourn here below, and its return, were not a mere barren contemplation of the nature of the world, and of the intelligent beings existing there. They were not an idle speculation as to the order of the world, and about the soul, but a study of the means for arriving at the great object proposed, the perfecting of the soul; and, as a necessary consequence, that of morals and society.

This Earth, to them, was not the Soul’s home, but its place of exile. Heaven was its home, and there was its birth-place. To it, it ought incessantly to turn its eyes. The man was not a terrestrial plant. His roots were in Heaven. The soul had lost its wings, clogged by the viscosity of matter. It would recover them when it extricated itself from matter and commenced its upward flight.

Matter being, in their view, as it was in that of St. Paul, the principle of all the passions that trouble reason, mislead the intelligence, and stain the purity of the soul, the Mysteries taught man how to enfeeble the action of matter on the soul, and to restore to the latter its natural dominion. And lest the stains so contracted should continue after death, lustrations were used, fastings, expiations, macerations, continence, and above all, initiations. Many of these practices were at first merely symbolical,–material signs indicating the moral purity required of the Initiates; but they afterward came to be regarded as actual productive causes of that purity.

The effect of initiation was meant to be the same as that of philosophy, to purify the soul of its passions, to weaken the empire of the body over the divine portion of man, and to give him here below a happiness anticipatory of the felicity to be one day enjoyed by him, and of the future vision by him of the Divine Beings. And therefore Proclus and the other Platonists taught “that the Mysteries and initiations withdrew souls from this mortal and material life, to reunite them to the gods; and dissipated for the adepts the shades of ignorance by the splendors of the Deity.” Such were the precious fruits of the last Degree of the Mystic Science,–to see Nature in her springs and sources, and to become familiar with the causes of things and with real existences.

Cicero says that the soul must exercise itself in the practice of the virtues if it would speedily return to its place of origin. It should, while imprisoned in the body, free itself therefrom by the contemplation of superior beings, and in some sort be divorced from the body and the senses. Those who remain enslaved, subjugated by their passions and violating the sacred laws of religion and society, will re-ascend to Heaven, only after they shall have been purified through a long succession of ages.

The Initiate was required to emancipate himself from his passions, and to free himself from the hindrances of the senses and of matter, in order that he might rise to the contemplation of the Deity, or of that incorporeal and unchanging light in which live and subsist the causes of created natures.

“We must,” says Porphyry, “flee from everything sensual, that the soul may with ease re-unite itself with God, and live happily with Him.” “This is the great work of initiation,” says Hierocles;–“to recall the soul to what is truly good and beautiful, and make it familiar therewith, and they its own; to deliver it from the pains and ills it endures here below, enchained in matter as in a dark prison; to facilitate its return to the celestial splendors, and to establish it in the Fortunate Isles, by restoring it to its first estate. Thereby, when the hour of death arrives, the soul, freed of its mortal garments, which it leaves behind it as a legacy to earth, will rise buoyantly to its home among the Stars, there to re-take its ancient condition, and approach toward the Divine nature as far as man may do.”

Plutarch compares Isis to knowledge, and Typhon to ignorance, obscuring the light of the sacred doctrine whose ‘blaze lights the soul of the Initiate. No gift of the gods, he holds, is so precious as the knowledge of the Truth, and that of the Nature of the gods, so far as our limited capacities allow us to rise toward them. The Valentinians termed initiation LIGHT.

The Initiate, says Psellus, becomes an Epopt, when admitted to seeing THE DIVINE LIGHTS. Clemens of Alexandria, imitating the language of an Initiate in the Mysteries of Bacchus, and inviting this Initiate, whom he terms blind like Tiresias, to come to see Christ, Who will blaze upon his eyes with greater glory than the Sun, exclaims: “Oh Mysteries most truly holy! Oh, pure Light! When the torch of the Dadoukos gleams, Heaven and the Deity are displayed to my eyes! I am initiated, and become holy!”

This was the true object of initiation; to be sanctified, and TO SEE, that is, to have just and faithful conceptions of the Deity, the knowledge of Whom was THE LIGHT of the Mysteries. It was promised the Initiate at Samothrace, that he should become pure and just. Clemens says that by baptism, souls are illuminated, and led to the pure light with which mingles no darkness, nor anything material. The Initiate, become an Epopt, was called A SEER. “HAIL, NEW-BORN LIGHT!” the Initiates cried in the Mysteries of Bacchus.

Such was held to be the effect of complete initiation. It lighted up the soul with rays from the Divinity, and became for it, as it was, the eye with which, according to the Pythagoreans, it contemplates the field of Truth; in its mystical abstractions, wherein it rises superior to the body, whose action on it, it annuls for the time, to re-enter into itself, so as entirely to occupy itself with the view of the Divinity, and the means of coming to resemble Him.

Thus enfeebling the dominion of the senses and the passions over the soul, and as it was freeing the latter from a sordid slavery, and by the steady practice of all the virtues, active and contemplative, our ancient brethren strove to fit themselves to return to the bosom of the Deity. Let not our objects as Masons fall below theirs.

We use the symbols which they used; and teach the same great cardinal doctrines that they taught, of the existence of an intellectual God, and the immortality of the soul of man. If the details of their doctrines as to the soul seem to us to verge on absurdity, let us compare them with the common notions of our own day, and be silent. If it seems to us that they regarded the symbol in some cases as the thing symbolized, and worshipped the sign as if it were itself Deity, let us reflect how insufficient are our own ideas of Deity, and how we worship those ideas and images formed and fashioned in our own minds, and not the Deity Himself: and if we are inclined to smile at the importance they attached to lustrations and fasts, let us pause and inquire whether the same weakness of human nature does not exist to-day, causing rites and ceremonies to be regarded as actively efficient for the salvation of souls.”..Morals and Dogma

References:

http://www.sacred-texts.com/mas/md/md26.htm

https://www.scribd.com/document/173201733/Masonic-Astronomy-and-the-Royal-Arch-of-the-Heavenshttps://www.hwalibrary.com/cgi-bin/get/hwa.cgi?action=getmagazine&InfoID=1335279106

http://www.jjcrowder743.com/threedegrees.html

https://www.hwalibrary.com/cgi-bin/get/hwa.cgiaction=getmagazine&InfoID=1335279106

https://play.google.com/books/reader?id=11ZgDwAAQBAJ&pg=GBS.PP1

https://www.thoughtco.com/the-myth-of-er-120332

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