Masonic Ring Symbolism – Joshua’s Perambulation of Jericho

THE PERAMBULATION

“And it came to pass at the seventh time, when

the priests blew with trumpets, Joshua said

unto the people, Shout; for the Lord hath given you the city.”

Jos. 6:16

As an indication that they are duly and truly prepared to be initiated, passed and raised in the first three Masonic degrees, candidates for Freemasonry are caused to circumambulate the lodge. Also referred to as a perambulation, the candidate’s travels during the degree is one of the more important ritual responsibilities to be performed. Hymns and prayers are recited, drawn from passages in the Holy Writings. Depending upon whether he is being initiated as an Entered Apprentice, passed to the degree of Fellowcraft, or raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason, as candidate’s perambulation becomes increasingly extensive. It is fair to ask both why this tradition is followed and what it symbolizes.

The scripture cited above is from the book of Joshua and refers to the circumambulation by the priests prior to the collapsing of the walls of Jericho. Since it is not likely that insignificant trumpet blasts caused stone to crumble, either the trumpet symbolizes a much more powerful force, or the complete episode is intended to convey a wiser and more serious truth.

In his recent book, Lost Secrets of the holy Ark, Laurence Gardner hypothesizes that the trumpet represented a powerful fusion force emanating from the Ark of the Covenant. While that may be true, there is presently no way of either confirming or denying that possibility. However, in that the Old Testament, in addition as the entirety of the Holy Bible is littered with allegorical tales, it is equally likely that Freemasonry, which has been in existence longer than Mr. Gardner has been writing, adopted the allegorical meaning as the foundation for the present day perambulation by candidates in Masonic lodges.

During ancient rites of the worship of Deity, designated holy men moved solemnly around holy objects in a circular manner. Such movement was an integral part of the ritual used by the Hindus and Buddhists. In Islam, circumambulation is used during holy sets at Mecca. In each, the movement was intended to represent the spiritual change of man from daily life to spiritual perfection. That change was to be achieved in stages as each man moved more closely in his life and education to the spiritual energy of the Deity.

This ancient custom is retained in Masonry, but its meaning has been generally forgotten. In some present-day Masonic organizations a tension exists between those brethren who wish to pursue the esoteric lessons taught by the Craft and those brethren who prefer a strict adherence to Masonic ritual, which has evolved over at the minimum the past two centuries. Some in the esoteric camp say that the stiff adherence to ritual neglects the more important tenets of holy ancient philosophy. Certain adherents to the “ritual-only” camp believe that Masonry is practiced in its purest form by working to reach “information-perfect” ritualistic performance. In typical Hermetic tradition, both are equally correct and incorrect.

It is dangerous to work in Masonry under the belief that an adherence to Masonic ritual is not Masonry and, consequently, should be relegated to the junk-heap of past relics. It is no less dangerous to ignore the fact that Masonic ritual enjoys a holy connection with the religions and philosophies of the past. More often than not, if one looks carefully into the Masonic past, he will discover that there exists a holy union between the approved ritual and the esoteric knowledge it is intended to convey. Indeed, a Mason may truly discover new joys in attending ritual performances once he learns more about the high holy past.

The candidate’s travels, or perambulation of the lodge room, are intended to symbolize the state of spiritual attainment associated with the aid of each of the first three degrees of Masonry. As an Entered Apprentice, the newly initiated Mason learns to humbly submit himself to the fact that knows little, if anything, about what the Craft teaches. In his state of ignorance, the initiated candidate is introduced to the tools of learning that, when studied under the guidance of the more experienced brethren, will ultimately enlighten his spirit. A Fellowcraft is presumed to have mastered the rudiments of Masonic symbolism and at the minimum be knowledgeable about the fact that Masonry uses signs to impart wise and serious truths. His spirit is in need of substantial food and, consequently, the candidate is led to the study of the liberal arts and sciences, which he is expected to read and understand by the prism of spirituality instilled by Masonry. While continuing to require spiritual food, the Master Mason is expected to take the lessons he has learned and usefully offer them to the community in which he resides by living the spiritual life he has been taught. The perambulation not only symbolizes the candidate’s spiritual state, but also the three stages of preparation necessary before the world may expect to assistance from that spirituality.

In ancient religious practices, the perambulation was believed to a necessary precedent to calling forth the presence of Deity. This once pervasive practice survives today in several of the occult cultures and has fallen into general disfavor. Masonry does not use the perambulation in hopes that it will magically cause God to appear, for the Craft understands and teaches that the Great Architect is always present. The purpose today is to provide the candidate and brethren with a ritual practice that focuses the mind upon that presence and instills a prayerful attitude throughout the complete ritualistic performance.

Freemasons around the globe are keenly interested in discovering the roots and origins of the Craft. University professors throughout Europe, in addition as in other places are researching historical archives inspecting new information and re-examining already existing material in hopes of one day being able to declare with certainty whence came Freemasonry. More likely than not, those roots and origins will not easily be discovered without first understanding that Masonry is about man’s relationship to God.

From time immemorial, man has questioned himself about God’s existence. The fraternity of Freemasons consists of men who have decided that He does exist and who openly profess their faith in His existence. A man cannot become a Mason without a belief in the Supreme Being. already though he already possesses faith in God before joining the Craft, a candidate may not have a very developed idea of what that method to himself, his family, his friends and his country. While Freemasonry does not teach such a man about the existence of God, it does teach him how God relates to His creations and how we who are produced in His image may assistance those with whom we come into contact each and every day.

What is stated here may be tested by you in the setting of your own lodge. The next time you are seated in a lodge room and observe the ritualistic perambulation, silence yourself and allow God to speak to your heart throughout the complete performance. There will be plenty of time to talk to the member sitting next to you after the performance is concluded. Consider the stages of your own spiritual development and try to clarify your spiritual strengths and weaknesses. Later, work very hard to enhance upon your strengths and to eliminate your weaknesses. If you try this exercise in lodge on a regular basis, more likely than not you will discover that you are practicing real Masonry and in the doing also discover the basis for the origins of the Craft to which you belong.

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