The Great Journey

“I began to understand that the goal of psychic development is the self.

There is no linear evolution; there is only a circumambulation of the self. Uniform development exists, at most, at the beginning; later, everything points toward the centre.

This insight gave me stability, and gradually my inner peace returned.”

C.G. Jung
Memories, Dreams, Reflections


Engraving showing the circumambulation of the candidate of the Entered Apprentice degree of Freemasonry, Duncan’s Ritual and Monitor of Freemasonry, 1866
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One of the most impressive moments of the initiatory ceremony is a certain rite known as Circumambulation.

The candidate himself is at a loss to understand the meaning or purpose of this, and it is probable that after the ceremonies are completed, he seldom recalls it, or ever gives it a thought.

[Circumambulation from Latin circum around and ambulātus to walk is the act of moving around a sacred object or idol.]

The interpretation of this rite is usually given as a symbolical representation of the great journey of life.

We men come into this world in ignorance and helplessness: dependent on others we must permit ourselves to be led about: and on the way we encounter many obstacles, many dangers, and many fears.

Of this experience, so we are often told, Circumambulation is a picture. There is nothing in this interpretation in itself that flies against fact or offends the reason, but we may be sure that there is far more to it than this.

Circumambulation is very old and well-nigh universal.

The Egyptians, in many of their cult practices, used it much, as when images of Isis or Osiris would be carried about the temples or around the altars.

The Jews had solemn ceremonies of a like nature, as when the priests would march in a circle about the sacrifices: and so, did the Arabs, who shared with the Jews so many of their customs.

To this day it is used by many branches of the Brahmans. The priest must drive about a sacred tree or pool during his initiation.

On arising in the early morning, he faces the sun, then walks about in a circle, keeping the center to his right.

The Laws of Manu prescribe that in the marriage ceremony, the bride is to circumambulate the domestic hearth.

Ancient Buddhists considered such a ceremony so important that they built stone galleries about shrines to accommodate the pilgrims and worshippers who came to pay homage to the image of Buddha by walking around it.


The plan of Borobudur took form of a Mandala, a model of universe in Hindu-Buddhist cosmology. It consists of three ascending realms, Kãmadhãtu (the realm of desire), Rüpadhãtu (the realm of form), and Arüpadhãtu (the realm of formlessness). – By Gunawan Kartapranata – Own work
IMAGE LINKED:  wikimedia Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

Homer tells us that Achilles led his squadrons three times about the body of Patroclus, in this fashion, so we may suppose, paying the dead hero divine honours.

In Greek sacred dances Circumambulation was often reversed: the movement from right to left was called the “strophe”, that from left to right, the “antistrophe”.

The Romans laid great stress on the necessity of making the movements only from right to left because they deemed the leftwise [anti-clockwise] movement a piece of black magic that would bring ill upon them: our own word “sinister” was born from that idea and still reminds us that the use of the left hand is not as fortunate as the right.

Roman marriage customs, many of them, like the Laws of Manu, demanded circumambulation.

Celtic scholars tell us that among Celts of all nationalities the rite has been practically universal.

Doctors would make circuits around the sick in order to invoke the powers of healing; mourners followed the dead in going about the graveyard before interment was made and often in religious ceremonies priests and people began by making a procession about the church, as is still the case in Roman Catholic ceremonies when a bishop is enthroned.

J.G. Frazer, in his Balder, describes a Scotch custom of Circumambulation practised in the highlands as late as 1850.

[Ed: see]

It is probable that in Freemasonry the rite has been used from the beginning.

In one of the very old York rituals, we find that the Apprentice when he came to demonstrate his fitness to be made a fellow, passed from station to station where the Master and the Wardens each one put his master’s piece to a different test.

These are but a few examples drawn at random from countless numbers.

We might have run up a list of illustrations from the habits of American Indians, as in the Pawnee ceremony of “Hako“, about which Miss Fletcher has written so entertainingly in the Bulletins of the U.S. Bureau of Ethnology: and we might have drawn many examples from the customs of Central American natives and South American.

The cases already given are sufficiently representative.

What gave rise to this rite in the first place? The clue is furnished us in a saying attributed to the priests of Apollo at Dellos [Delos], as preserved in one of the hymns of Callimaches: “we imitate the example of the sun.”

In our northern hemisphere the sun rises in the east, and then appears to move to the west by way of the south. Almost all ancient peoples, and almost all peoples now living in a state of primitive culture (there are exceptions, as in the case of the Eskimos) look upon the sun as one of the principal sources of life and power, and accordingly worship him.

Circumambulation is a product of sun worship.


Utriusque cosmi maioris scilicet et minoris metaphysica, physica atque technica historia … [Tractatus secundus de naturae simia seu technica macrocosmi historia] / [Robert Fludd]
IMAGE LINKED:  wellcome collection Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

But there is an origin anterior to this. Why, did ancient peoples believe that imitating the sun’s pathway through the skies was an act of worship!

It is because they believed in what anthropologists have come to call “sympathetic magic”.

Nearly all early peoples believed that they could gain control of, and power over, natural forces and gods and demons by imitating them.

The modern Red man will beat his drum and scatter dust in the air in order to compel the rain to come; the drum rattle is the thunder; the dust falling is the rain; this imitation, according to the logic of magical ideas (which logic is now almost completely lost to us) is itself a method of compelling the gods of the rain to pay heed.

The man who prays for rain, according to magic, makes it rain. In the Ancient Mysteries, many of them, the central ceremony was a drama in imitation of the experiences, perhaps the tragical life and death, of the god.


Potawatomi rain dance ca. 1920
IMAGE LINKED:  wikimedia Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

The magician who practised his ceremonies in harmony with the orderly forces of nature, who always, as it were, kept to the right hand, was a practicer of “white magic”: while that one who reversed the normal processes, who made the thunder go back into the sky, and the rain go back into the cloud, was a practicer of the “black magic”. 


Edward Kelley: he conjures up a ghost in a graveyard. Coloured aquatint.
IMAGE LINKED:  wellcome collection Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

As I have said above, the whole logic of these magical doctrines is lost to us: it is doubtful if, by the greatest stretch of the imagination, we can bring ourselves to think or feel as ancient peoples did.

But there is one idea enshrined here in the midst of this ancient ceremony that we can understand. It is the idea of Harmony with Nature.

Democritus was fond of the saying, “Nature conquers Nature”.

It kept him in mind of the fact that man is powerless to conquer her, though he talk much about it: it is only when he sets a greater natural force against a lesser that he can persuade Nature to do his bidding, as when the sailor adjusts his sail to the winds in order to overcome the inertia of the water, or a woodman cuts away the root of a tree in order that gravity May bring down the great trunk.

The farmer conquers by learning how to keep step with the seasons, by harmonizing his sowing and cultivating with the rain, the frosts, and the dew, by rotating his crops, by learning how to fit his own small powers in with the great powers of sun, soil, and the rain: and so is it, in one form or other, with us all.

Thus, to some extent or other, and under one disguise or other, the Rite of Circumambulation is the ceremony of the harmonious adjustment of one to one’s world.

The candidate must pay homage to the Master, he must salute the Wardens, he must learn to keep step with his guide, and how to approach the East; and he must be made to understand that he will never know the power and privileges of Masonry unless he learns how to harmonize his life with the laws and forces of Masonry.

The Chartres pattern, found in several Medieval labyrinths
Original:Nordisk familjebokVector: Sebastián Asegurado – This file was derived from: Labyrinth 1 (from Nordisk familjebok).png:,
IMAGE LINKED:  wikimedia Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)


The literature on Circumambulation is coextensive with the literature on folk-lore, magic, mythology, and primitive culture in general.

This would include such well-known works as Frazer’s Golden Bough, Tyler’s Primitive Culture, Brinton’s The Myths of the New World, etc., etc.

One of the best short treatises extant is that contributed to Hasting’s Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics by our illustrious Masonic scholar, Count Goblet d’Alviela.

The little article in Mackey’s Encyclopedia is also very good, though it has little to say about modern practices of the Rite.

See also Plutarch’s Isis and Osiris. In The Builder see Volumes III, IV and V, consulting the indexes. Note especially Volume III, page 245.

Article by: Bro. William Fielding


The Great Journey

By Bro.  William Fielding, California

The Builder Magazine
September 1923
Volume IX – Number 9

Memories, Dreams, Reflections

By: C.G. Jung

An eye-opening biography of one of the most influential psychiatrists of the modern age, drawing from his lectures, conversations, and own writings. 

In the spring of 1957, when he was eighty-one years old, Carl Gustav Jung undertook the telling of his life story. Memories, Dreams, Reflections is that book, composed of conversations with his colleague and friend Aniela Jaffé, as well as chapters written in his own hand, and other materials.

Jung continued to work on the final stages of the manuscript until shortly before his death on June 6, 1961, making this a uniquely comprehensive reflection on a remarkable life.

Fully corrected, this edition also includes Jung’s VII Sermones ad Mortuos.


The Golden Bough: A Study of Magic and Religion

By: James George Frazer (Author)

James Frazer’s monumental study of world mythology and folklore has been a controversial work for over a century. The Golden Bough is “a great body of primitive and barbarous beliefs” and essential reading for anyone interested in mythology, supernatural magic or religion, especially modern neo-pagan practices.

More than one critic has said that it should be required reading for everyone.

“To read [The Golden Bough] is to share in the adventure of mankind’s cultural Odyssey and to undergo an enlargement of one’s own sympathy and understanding for one’s fellow beings…It is a book to be read and reread.”

— Ashley Montagu.

This Enhanced Media edition is based on Frazer’s single volume 1922 edition.


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