Book Intro – Daniel Beresniak Symbols Of Freemasonry

Freemasonry is one of mankind’s oldest existing secular brotherhoods.

Its past members include kings, presidents, military leaders, writers and philosophers, and today there are over ten million freemasons in the world.

The power of their network is often feared, and yet freemasonry is not a closed doctrine. Members of the same lodge do not share the same political or religious opinions.

So what do freemasons share? What can their masonic experience bring to others? This book gives the reader a clear response to these questions by means of an exploration of freemasonry through the moral, philosophical or religious symbols which lie at the heart of its teaching: from the Masonic calendar to Solomon’s Temple, the stonemason’s tools, and special clothing, customs and rituals.

Richly illustrated, Symbols of Freemasonry is designed both for the initiated and newcomers interested in gaining a better understanding of this fascinating but often misrepresented society.




Freemasons prosper in all free countries and wherever there is law and order. They are victimised and persecuted in all states governed by the whims of an autocratic ruler or a single party, and in places where all truth is considered to be found in a single book which is raised on a pedestal, a fixed monument.

In the city, that teeming mass of isolated people inhabiting today’s urban sprawls, the Masonic lodge is a place where people can come together in a spirit of fraternal joy.

The Rule, rites and symbols, allow every person to become themselves: to discover that they are all makers of meaning; to recognise themselves and others as sources of light adding to the general light, while accepting that no one of these single flames can shed light everywhere.

Masonic teaching is known as “The Royal Art”, a term which used to be applied to alchemy.

Many books exist on this subject, but they are generally so strange and difficult to understand as to infuriate any reader who is unused to going beyond the literal meaning of things.

However, there are two aspects of the Royal Art—the tradition from which Freemasons draw most of their symbols— which should encourage us to examine it more closely.

The first reveals its central role in the history of human behaviour. Whenever an all embracing orthodoxy has the power to exclude or kill those who have doubts or ask questions, whenever the pressure to conform is so heavily imposed that dissenters are threatened with death, free spirits have always found the means of sharing and spreading their ideas. This may involve veiling them in allegory or wrapping them up in thick layers of lies and absurdity.

The second aspect, which leads on from the first, places the Royal Art firmly within the history of ideas. Even today, all the metaphors which allude to the act of becoming, and which we still now use to describe reality, derive from the vocabulary of alchemy. The act of becoming is a metamorphosis.

A metamorphosis takes place during a journey through different landscapes, among forms and colours, during which each of us is transformed. But, in this context, the term has intentionally been trivialised into the act of putting on a costume and playing a role.

Those who undertake this adventure come out of it with varying rewards, depending on the landscape they visit, their approach, what they make of it and how much of it they see.

A journey of initiation is not a package tour. There are no sign-posts. The risk of becoming lost, of sliding back when attempting to go forwards, is what gives life to the unexpected.

The intertwining of danger and promise creates the possibility of understanding and allows the idea of freedom to be considered a moral value.

What Freemasons have to offer is the notion of a society created around the union of diversity; the opposite of a union of conformity.

This book is a collection of the symbolic images which Freemasons encounter on their journeys of transformation.’

The texts and illustrations form an intimate dialogue whose subject is Freemasonry, and which casts light on the relationship between dreams and reality, reason, intuition and imagination.

Anyone who delves into the history of ideas must ask themselves questions about the connections between current ideologies and traditional, timeless representations of the world.

Such questions inevitably lead to a study of the symbols of Freemasonry, to watching Freemasons live with these symbols and myths, and to listening to them debate the subject.

They are delighted not to all have the same opinions, for debate is vital to a culture. Freemasonry is indeed a culture and, like all cultures, is a living fire where answers fuel new questions.

The way in which Freemasonry uses symbolism gives us an insight into the word itself. Masonic symbolism is based on the notion of building: building, becoming and making.

“To make” is understood as “to make something of oneself”. This approach forges a relationship between the physical roads we walk along in the city on our way home and the spiritual paths which in each of us lead between our desires and our thoughts.

Freemasons delve into myths in order to understand how the human mind works, with a view to becoming free people, which is to say, people who act rather than react.

During their journeys, they cast aside their layman’s rags in order to don their costume of light and live out different roles.

In this way Freemasons are able to experience a reality which is often denied to or simply ignored by those people bound by the prejudices and certitudes of current, fashionable philosophies. Imagination and reason feed off each other even, and perhaps especially, when they are opposed.

Freemasonry’s symbols are a part of our culture and of our lives, in the spiritual, intellectual and ethical realms as well as in our ordinary daily routines.

Note: This work is a translation of a text written by a French Mason. Some of the content is peculiar to France and will not be known to other Masons. Nevertheless, the basic principles described and explained are common to Freemasonry wherever it is practiced throughout the world.


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