Nowadays in our lodges’ degree ceremonies seem to be the first and most important thing in the plan of work for the lodge. But all the evidence suggests that the practice of Freemasonry in the eighteenth century was very different from present-day convention. What records we have suggest a number of important differences. The chapters in the book deal individually with The Power of Allegory, Ornaments, Furniture, Movable Jewels, Immovable Jewels, and Art, Architecture and Image.
One of the Emulation lectures tells us that the interior of a Freemason’s Lodge is composed of Ornaments, Furniture and Jewels. Are we to take these three elements at face value, and if so, what exactly are Ornaments, or Furniture, or indeed Jewels in a masonic context? It becomes clear in this book that we are dealing with ornaments of symbolic and allegorical significance, such as the Blazing Star, the Square Pavement and the Tesselated Border. Furniture in a masonic context includes books of holy writ, and jewels are sometimes not concrete objects at all, but the summit of allegorical significance in a speculative sense.
Architect’s implements may serve as speculative jewels, implements such as squares, levels, plumb rules, ashlars and tracing boards. It is clear that there is a wealth of de-coding and interpretation to be undertaken. An entire chapter in the book is devoted to the power of allegory, and we are led on a journey accompanied by many masonic jewels and their relationship in some cases to architecture and art in the profane world.
Julian Rees, with his significant grasp of symbols and allegory is clearly the best person to embark on a journey through such a complex and fascinating subject. We learn here that the study of masonic symbolism, far from being a merely esoteric pursuit, is a means of relating freemasonry to the wider world. This book amply illustrates how masonic symbolism relates to the world around us.