Rethinking Symbolism:
Traversing Ignorance, Embracing Enlightenment


By Brother Dr Dirk Lombard

Address at Lodge De Goede Verwachting
21 January 2016



To embrace ignorance in the 21st century is not only easy, but also very convenient. It is not difficult to be a simple minded passenger on this boat of life, floating, aloof into oblivion, blind to the significant symbolism that so often and so unexpectedly sit waiting, longing for our, what should be grateful, scrutiny.


A symbol may be perceived by some as being a mere picture with a message attached to it. But it is so much more. It may be understood to be an outward sign of an inward and spiritual concept, representing to us the world of reality and forming a link with the unseen world, presenting a truth in concrete form, awakening in us a more developed state of consciousness, created by creative thought. Ritual symbolism.


Indeed symbols are means of leaving valuable truths behind, to the profane in general, but especially so to us – we who should make it our earnest quest to qualify ourselves to discover and fully appreciate these truths. These truths should not only serve to be of informative value, but must leave a true impression on our lives. These living truths that sprouted from the countless seeds of wisdom planted in the past, now trees bearing these fruits, almost magically transmitting these life giving offerings of mental and spiritual sustenance from the past to the present.


At this point it is then perhaps prudent to remind ourselves of some of the motivating factors that may have attracted us to Freemasonry. Not only association, not merely curiosity, but a burning desire to partake in a process of a deep deposition of simple wisdom, carefully preserved by tradition and proved by the emblems that remain to us, cut in imperishable stone, which, across the piled-up dust of ages, whisper the old familiar truths and bear witness to the unity of the human mind and to the existence of a common system of Truth veiled in allegory and taught by symbols.


One is left truly astonished when one examines the sheer multitude and variety of symbols that surrounds us when we engage in ritual workings, shielded from distracting profanities by the sanctity of our Temples. Verbal symbolism enshrined in the allegories and legendary history, the words, the catechisms and charges. Pictorial symbolism represented by our Jewels, Mark Glyphs, Symbolical Figures and Tracing Boards, Geometrical Figures and Pavement. There is also our enacted symbols, brought to life by our Initiation ceremonies, Passings, Raisings, Processions and Signs. Indeed, not a mere mechanical performance of labours, but a beautiful resurrection of ancient truths.


So significant were these ancient mysteries that they served as the fountains of moral life as it was intended. From here originated the foundations of Theology, Philosophy, Ethics and Science. The mother of civilisation, to be cherished by the enlightened. Truly, not just a simple picture, not just a one-dimensional act but a specific and dedicated time traveller, carrying on his shoulders a complete philosophy of the existence.


The symbols of our Order so successfully enshrines and promulgates its great truths, which when received with sincerity and conscientiously translated into daily practice, are so invaluable in refining and purifying our individual and collective characters.Indeed, words of instruction and education may enlighten the understanding, but acts, ceremonies and images address the profoundest sentiments to the heart - not a man lives but feels at times that language, in its happiest combinations is all too weak to express those burning thoughts which often stir the deepest emotions.


And finally, when one looks back into the mystical depths of our history, let us stand in awe at the collective symbolic product of its creators, for so diverse its contributors and having no possibility of contact, separated by time and distance, these intellectuals of life have seemingly trodden the same paths and arrived at the same conclusions - taught by teachers in much the same manner - inspired as it were by some unseen force.


And here we stand, a next generation of creators, but also a generation of spectators, privileged to witness the ancient and modern beat together, in one great unison of sympathy.



With thanks to W.Bro. Ernest H. Shakleton, Templars Lodge #4302, whose article, A Brief Sketch of Freemasonry and The Symbols of The First Degree, stimulated this musing.


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