Freemasonry: The roots of Freemasonry have been attributed both by its own pioneers and by history to lie embedded in ancient Egypt. The cultural connection of ancient Egypt and ancient India is now slowly being established; the philosophic and religious indebtedness of the country of the Nile to the country of the Ganges is being uncovered by history and archaeology. This esoteric system admittedly once fulfilled a far loftier mission than it does today and was therefore worked in an atmosphere of greater secrecy. It was closely connected with religion, mysticism, ethics, and philosophy. Even today we find that it still possesses three progressive degrees of initiation, whose names are drawn from the act of building: the "Entered Apprentice," the "Craftsman," and the "Master Mason." The first degree represents spiritual faculties just dawning; the second degree represents those same faculties grown quite active; the third degree represents the quest and the ultimate discovery within himself of the true Self. If the earlier degrees teach him how to behave towards others, the last degree teaches him rightly how to behave towards himself. For here his search ends in undergoing the mystical death of the ego, which allows him to live in his own spiritual centre henceforth.
Whoever fulfils the Masonic rule of being "of lawful age and well recommended" may then knock as "a poor blind candidate" at the door of the Master's chamber for admittance. The initiation of the novice into the first degree of Masonry is symbolically performed while he is half-clothed. He is then called an "Entered Apprentice." All men throughout the world who sincerely and seriously adopt religion because they apprehend a mystery to be concealed behind the universe, thereby unconsciously enter this degree. All religious men who live up to their ethical obligations and thus make themselves worthy are eventually passed into the second degree, that of "Fellow Craft." This symbolizes the stage of mysticism wherein the seeking mind passes halfway behind the symbol. It is the mystics who consecrate their quest to inner contemplation within themselves rather than in external churches or temples. They furnish from among their number the few who have discovered that service is the most powerful means of advancement and who are raised to the third degree of a fully-robed "Master Mason." He alone is given the clue whereby he may recover the "Lost Word" of the true Self, the ultimate Reality, a secret now vanished from the ken of the modern successors of Enoch and Hiram Abiff. And he alone dons blue robes as a token of his universal outlook--that same blue which is the colour of the cloudless overarching sky that covers all creatures on the planet.
Apart from its use of the solar symbol, in this highest grade, of the sun at noon as a sign that the Master will work for the enlightenment of all, you will find that Masonry has indicated its worship of Light by including the cock in its ceremonial rites. For this is the bird which rises with the sun; which, in fact, vigorously and loudly informs its little world that the dawn is at hand and that the benign rays will soon be shed upon it.
-- Notebooks Category 15: The Orient > Chapter 7: Related Entries > # 17
-- Perspectives > Chapter 15: The Orient > # 17