According to the derivation of the word from the Greek, "to symbolize" signifies "to compare one thing with another." Hence a symbol is the expression of an idea that has been derived from the comparison or contrast of some object with a moral conception or attribute. Thus we say that the plumb is a symbol of rectitude of conduct. The physical qualities of the plumb are here compared or contrasted with the moral conception of virtue, or rectitude. Then to the Speculative Mason it becomes, after he has been taught its symbolic meaning, the visible expression of the idea of moral uprightness.
But although there are these two modes of instruction in Freemasonry,—by legends and by symbols,—there really is no radical difference between the two methods. The symbol is a visible, and the legend an audible representation of some contrasted idea—of some moral conception produced from a comparison. Both the legend and the symbol relate to dogmas of a deep religious character; both of them convey moral sentiments in the same peculiar method, and both of them are designed by this method to illustrate the philosophy of Speculative Masonry.
To investigate the recondite meaning of these legends and symbols, and to elicit from them the moral and philosophical lessons which they were intended to teach, is to withdraw the veil with which ignorance and indifference seek to conceal the true philosophy of Freemasonry.
To study the symbolism of Masonry is the only way to investigate its philosophy. This is the portal of its temple, through which alone we can gain access to the sacellum where its aporrheta are concealed.
Its philosophy is engaged in the consideration of propositions relating to God and man, to the present and the future life. Its science is the symbolism by which these propositions are presented to the mind.
The work now offered to the public is an effort to develop and explain this philosophy and science. It will show that there are in Freemasonry the germs of profound speculation. If it does not interest the learned, it may instruct the ignorant. If so, I shall not regret the labor and research that have been bestowed upon its composition.
Albert G. Mackey, M.D.
Charleston, S.C., Feb. 22, 1869.
If you would like to see your book on iPhone and other formats please contact us via www.andrewsuk.com