The Winding Staircase and its Kabbalistic Path 

The Winding Staircase is one of the most celebrated images in freemasonry and in fact is the subject of its own lecture in most states with in USA.

excluding Pennsylvania (where your author resides).

Mentioned in the Bible in I King’s 6:8, The staircase is separated into three distinct sections; The first with 3 steps detailing the square, compass, and plumb; The second with the 5 orders of architecture and the 5 senses; and the final with the seven liberal arts.

The stair ends at the Middle chamber where the candidate discovers Divine Truth. Symbolism abounds, but what if we were to take the most pertinent numbers contained therein 3, 5, 7 apply them as sephirot in the Tree of Life – and work through the path of the Tree of Life to connect sphere to sphere – we may see how this Divine Knowledge will reach the Mason who desire to climb these stairs in Kabbalistic terms.

IMAGE LINKED:  author’s collection Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

We would start in the sephirot Binah. Designated number 3 on the Tree of Life – it is known as the Supernal Mother.

It sits firmly atop the pillar of strength or severity in the Tree of Life. It is the “foundation of Primordial Wisdom”.

It is dark and mysterious – and contains all the aspects of the spheres below it (4-10) in the Tree of Life reflected in its murkiness. Known as the Sanctifying Intelligence, it is the organizational aspect of faith rather than belief.

For a new candidate in freemasonry faith is their utmost virtue. It is by faith in which they knocked, and through their faith in their brothers they endure the trials of initiation. Binah is the will to form, and the discipline placed on its counterpart in Chokmah.

And thus, a new brother in freemasonry must use the compass, square and plumb to begin restricting his actions and conforming them closer to the Will of Wisdom.

Binah to Geburah
IMAGE LINKED:  author’s collection Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

From Binah (Wisdom) we must path to the sphere Geburah (Strength). This path is designated as the House of Influence and “from the midst of the investigation … the hidden senses are drawn forth.”

Assigned the Hebrew letter Cheth or Enclosure, this path is closely connected with the idea of Merakabah or the throne of God. Now that the candidate is moving up the steps of discipline he is enshrined in freemasonry – finding brothers close to him and helping him keep in due bounds of his vocation inside and outside the lodge building.

IMAGE LINKED:  author’s collection Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

Geburah or Strength is given the number 5. It is firmly placed in the Tree of Life below the sphere of Binah and is known as the Destroyer.

As Binah gives us the wisdom to create and design our lives, it is in Geburah where we cut through excess and only use what is necessary. The fellowcraft steps of 5 show this removal, while columns are ultimately formative and build – there is a whittling down of necessary structure from a wall to a column – in effect leaving only the necessary while removing the dross.

The senses on the steps help to point to another important aspect of this sphere – balance. By subduing our passions freemasons are taught to use their senses widely and within the limits of their compass. Engaging fully but allowing none of what is deemed unfit to enter.

Geburah to Tipareth
IMAGE LINKED:  author’s collection Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

The next route from Geburah to the final sphere Netzach (victory) takes us down two more paths and an extra sphere, each adding its own lesson to us as we follow the Wisdom into our chamber.

The first path is of the 22nd or Faithful Intelligence flowing from Geburah to Tipareth (Beauty). Again, the emphasis is on faith, but not being intelligent in our faith. Rather it’s meaning is the focus on that whoever is leading us knows the way.

The letter associated is Lamed or Ox-Goad and thus like a stubborn animal we are shown the way down the road of morality by the G. A. O. T. U. This route is assigned the Justice card in Tarot correspondences and from that key we can get a sense of our route.

Justice is seen carrying a sword (of Geburah) and is using that power to foster balance like the scale in her left hand. That balance is most emphasized by the next stop, that of Tipareth.

IMAGE LINKED:  author’s collection Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

Tipareth or Beauty stands firmly in the centre of the Tree of Life. Its position is placed in the middle of the tree– and we find within it balance and the pouring of the top of the tree flowing into the bottom spheres. It is fitting that in the middle of our journey through the staircase we find this balance.

Associated with the Sun, the association with the son of God or messiah like figure is unmistakable. At this point the candidate is moving from the second to the third degree, finding that within his brothers and himself is a propensity to be the one given the keys or the master’s word.

The next path is called Imaginative Intelligence giving likeness to all the emanations of the tree. The letter nun is given the meaning fish, the symbol of first matter and the key Death is associated with this path in Tarot.

It maybe that the key of Death gives us the greatest clue to what we can interpret from this path and the winding stair. The candidate would be traveling up the seven liberal arts, but what value will these give to fellowcraft that would lead him to wisdom?

IMAGE LINKED:  author’s collectio Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

The final sphere in which the candidate lands in Netzach or Victory. It is at the bottom of the pillar of mercy, the realm of instinct and emotions and nature. It is essential to those arts mentioned as the 7 liberal arts.

As we can all attest, these arts are not static in our world, they are constantly changing. Thus, the candidate must firmly entrench himself in the history of these arts, and blaze forward with the horizon of these sciences – applying each to his life to better understand himself and the world around him.

But even as the individual can master these arts – the group can truly master them. Netzach is commonly referred to as the group mind, contrasted with Hod the 8th sphere its partner associated with individualization, these may lead us to another kabbalistic secret entombed within this lecture, the importance of adherence to the group.

Those who remember the obligations of this degree can easily see that the 7th sphere the group mind can attribute one to one to what is expected of a newly passed Fellowcraft.

In Freemasonry, the Winding Staircase stands as a powerful symbol of one’s journey toward enlightenment, drawing inspiration from its biblical origins. Were these Kabbalistic symbolic though present in the authors of this famous freemasonic lecture?

One can never be sure, but we see that the power the connections to the Kabbalistic model of thought can afford the esoterically inclined brother.

Beginning with Binah, the realm of faith and discipline, the candidate climbs to Geburah’s strength and discernment, and subsequently to Netzach’s victory and emotional intuition. This mirrors the inner growth of the candidate as he travels on his journey throughout life.


Sepher Yetzirah. Translated from the Hebrew by William Wynn Westcott, M.B., J.P. Edmonds, WA: Holmes Publishing Group.
Wang, R. (1983). The Qabalistic Tarot. York Beach, Maine: Samuel Weiser, Inc.

Article by: Michael Perry

Michael was raised into Indiana Franklin Lodge 313 in Indiana, PA in June 2021 and currently serves as Junior Warden.

He enjoys studying and writing for the Academy of Masonic Knowledge's Master Masonic Scholar program,  wherein he can explore the esoteric aspects of freemasonry and how they influence our culture and communities.

Michael is a Computer and Information Technology teacher and an avid researcher.


Recent Articles: Esoteric series

Pansophic Freemasons

Unveil the secrets of Pansophic Freemasonry, a transformative journey through the ancient mystical traditions. Delve into the sacred realms of Rosicrucianism, Templar wisdom, Kabbalah, Gnosticism, and more. Discover the Graal, the sacred Grail that connects all esoteric paths. Embrace a holistic spiritual quest that reveals the profound mysteries of self and the universe.

Decoding Transcendence

Dive into a spiritual journey where self-awareness is the key to enlightenment. The Gospel of Thomas and Masonic teachings converge on the profound truth that the path to transcendent wisdom lies within us. Embrace a diversified understanding of spirituality, emphasizing introspection as the gateway to a universally respected enlightenment. Explore, understand, transcend.

Philosophy the Science of Estimating Values

Philosophy is the science of estimating values. The superiority of any state or substance over another is determined by philosophy. By assigning a position of primary importance to what remains when all that is secondary has been removed, philosophy thus becomes the true index of priority or emphasis in the realm of speculative thought. The mission of philosophy a priori is to establish the relation of manifested things to their invisible ultimate cause or nature.

Freemasonry and Astrologers

Unlocking the Mysteries: The Surprising Connection Between Freemasonry and Astrologers Revealed! Delve into the intriguing world of Freemasonry and explore its ties to astrological practices. Discover how these two distinct realms intersect, offering a fascinating glimpse into the esoteric interests of some Freemasons. Uncover the hidden links and unravel the enigmatic bond between Freemasonry and astrologers!


Neoplatonism, a philosophy with profound influence from the 3rd to the 6th century, merges Platonic ideals with Eastern thought, shaping Western and Middle-Eastern philosophy for two millennia. It emphasizes the unity of the individual with the supreme 'One', blending philosophy with theology and impacting major religious and philosophical movements, including Christianity and Islam.

Freemasonry and Gnosticism

The enigmatic allure of Freemasonry's ancient rituals and Gnosticism's search for hidden knowledge capture the human spirit's endless quest for enlightenment. Between the stonemason's square and the Gnostic's divine spark lies a tantalizing intersection of philosophy, spirituality, and the pursuit of esoteric wisdom. Both traditions beckon with the promise of deeper understanding and moral elevation, inviting those who are drawn to unravel the tapestries of symbols and allegories. Whether through the fellowship of the lodge or the introspective journey of the soul, the paths of Freemasonry and Gnosticism represent a yearning to connect with something greater than ourselves—an impulse as old as time and as compelling as the mysteries they guard.

Theosophy & Freemasonry

Embark on a journey through time and spirituality with our in-depth exploration of the Theosophical Society's Seal. This ancient emblem, rich with symbols, bridges humanity with the cosmos, echoing through the world's great faiths and diverse cultures. Our paper delves into the six mystical symbols, untangling their profound meanings and tracing their presence in historic art worldwide. Unaffiliated with worldly movements, these symbols open a window to esoteric wisdom. We also probe potential parallels with Freemasonry, seeking threads that might connect these storied organizations. Join us in unveiling the universal language of the spirit encoded within this enigmatic Seal.

Achieving Self-Dominance

Discover the pathway to divine oneness through the concept of self-dominance. This thought-provoking essay explores the profound connection between self-control, spiritual growth, and achieving unity with the divine essence. With an interdisciplinary approach, it offers practical steps towards expanding consciousness and deepening our understanding of the divine.

The Winding Staircase and its Kabbalistic Path

The Winding Staircase in freemasonry is a renowned symbol of enlightenment. In this article, we explore its connection to Kabbalistic thought and how it mirrors the inner growth of a candidate as he progresses throughout his Masonic journey. From faith and discipline in Binah, to strength and discernment in Geburah, and finally to victory and emotional intuition in Netzach, each step represents a crucial aspect of personal development. Join us as we delve into the esoteric meanings of this powerful symbol.

Capitular Masonry

Unravel the mystic origins of Capitular Masonry, a secretive Freemasonry branch. Explore its evolution, symbolic degrees, and the Royal Arch's mysteries. Discover the Keystone's significance in this enlightening journey through Masonic wisdom, culminating in the ethereal Holy Royal Arch.

Reflections on the Second Degree Work

Bro. Draško Miletić offers his reflections on his Second Degree Work – using metaphor, allegory and symbolism to understand the challenges we face as a Fellow Craft Mason to perfect the rough ashlar.

Diversity and Universality of Masonic Work

Explore the rich tapestry of Masonic work, a testament to diversity and universality. Uncover its evolution through the 18th century, from the stabilization of Symbolic Freemasonry to the advent of Scottish rite and the birth of Great Continental Rites. Dive into this fascinating journey of Masonic systems, a unique blend of tradition and innovation. Antonio Jorge explores the diversity and universality of Masonic Work

Nonsense as a Factor in Soul Growth

Although written 100 years ago, this article on retaining humour as a means of self-development and soul growth is as pertinent today as it was then! Let us remember the words of an ancient philosopher who said, when referring to the court jester of a king, “It takes the brightest man in all the land to make the greatest fool.”

Freemasonry: The Robe of Blue and Gold

Three Fates weave this living garment and man himself is the creator of his fates. The triple thread of thought, action, and desire binds him when he enters into the sacred place or seeks admittance to the Lodge, but later this same cord is woven into the wedding garment whose purified folds shroud the sacred spark of his being. - Manly P Hall

The Path to Human Flourishing

By such a prudent and well regulated course of discipline as may best conduce to the preservation of your corporal and metal faculties in the fullest energy, thereby enabling you to exercise those talents wherewith god has blessed you to his glory and the welfare of your fellow creatures.

The Philosophy of Freemasonry

Jacob Ernst's 1870 treatise on the Philosophy of Freemasonry - The theory of Freemasonry is based upon the practice of virtuous principles, inculcating the highest standard of moral excellence.

Alchemy and Freemasonry

Alchemy, like Freemasonry, has two aspects, material and spiritual; the lower aspect being looked upon by initiates as symbolic of the higher. “Gold” is used as a symbol of perfection and the earlier traces of Alchemy are philosophical. A Lecture read before the Albert Edward Rose Croix Chapter No. 87 in 1949. by Ill. Bro. S. H. Perry 32°

The State of Being

The spirit of the Renaissance is long gone and today's globalized and hesitant man, no matter ideology and confession, is the one that is deprived of resoluteness, of decision making, the one whose opinion doesn't matter. Article by Draško Miletić,

A Mason's Work in the First Degree

Every Mason's experiences are unique - here writer and artist Draško Miletić shares insights from his First Degree Work.

Initiation and the Lucis Trust

The approach of the Lucis Trust to initiation may differ slightly to other Western Esoteric systems and Freemasonry, but the foundation of training for the neophyte to build good moral character and act in useful service to humanity is universal.

Who were the Élus Coëns

Who were the mysterious 18th century Élus Coëns – a.k.a The Order of Knight-Masons Elect Priests of the Universe – and why did they influence so many other esoteric and para-Masonic Orders?

Blackheath Degrees

Bro. Chris Hatton gives us his personal reflections on the history of the 'house at Blackheath and the Blackheath Orders', in this wonderful tribute to Andrew Stephenson, a remarkable man and Mason.

Book Review - Cagliostro the Unknown Master

The book review of the Cagliostro the Unknown Master, by the Editor of the book

Freemasonry and Egyptomania

We explore fascinating and somewhat contentious historical interpretations that Freemasonry originated in ancient Egypt.

Is Freemasonry Esoteric?

Is Freemasonry esoteric? Yes, no, maybe!

Egyptian Rite

Egyptian Freemasonry, founder Cagliostro was famed throughout eighteenth century Europe for his reputation as a healer and alchemist

masonic knowledge

to be a better citizen of the world

share the square with two brothers

click image to open email app on mobile device

Share this article ....