Freemasonry is a multifaceted thing. On one level it seems to many of us to be all about words, learning the ritual, getting the words right, putting the right meaning into what we are saying, and so on. On another level it seems almost to be a stage play, as we enact different legends and follow the narrative surrounding characters, some of them semi-mythical, some of them unrecognizable. Masonic ceremonies are also enhanced by music, played, recorded, even sung, and composers such as Mozart and Sibelius composed music specifically for Masonic ceremonies.
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But in all this, there is another dimension – the visual domain. As we seek to impart allegories by the use of symbols, it becomes important to make use of visual images, and from earliest times tracing boards were there to do just this, but cleverly, they were there not to present us with images of allegories, but rather to encourage us to interpret the images, and to invest them with a meaning, to unfold our own allegories! We look at a twenty-four-inch gauge, on the face of it, a workman’s implement. It is true that some rituals tell us what this implement represents, but much more importantly we are invited to interpret that implement, that emblem, and to work out for ourselves what it can (and does) mean to us. The rough and smooth ashlars – a non-mason might look at those and, without the benefit of a written ritual, work out for him or herself what that could mean in terms of character development, of moral structure. Why a blazing star? Why a Jacob’s Ladder? What relevance do these have for us as Freemasons? These are all allegories for us to work on, to our own benefit.
In this second edition of Julian Rees’s popular work, we see many old favourites, and discover many tracing boards from around the world, some nearly three hundred years old, some designed in the 21st century, all of them displaying some aspect of masonic allegory we may never have thought about until now. To the rich panoply of tracing boards from many continents, Rees has added an important section relating to masonic practice in USA in the nineteenth century – the use of magic lanterns to project onto a screen or the wall of the lodge, images of implements, working tools, action scenes from some of the narratives in the degree ceremonies, biblical scenes, personages and situations. The addition of such material, hidden away and forgotten for many years, cannot fail to be of interest to the Masonic reader whether he comes from the old world or the new.
Plunge in and enjoy a new and more pleasant, more fulfilling journey! Get the second edition from Amazon here.