Masonic Legacy: Craft Symbolism in the Gnostic Mass


Masonic Legacy: Craft Symbolism in the Gnostic Mass

by Frater S∴N∴B∴, Master of Heru Behutet Oasis, Ordo Templi Orientis

who is also:

Frater Jacobus, a Priest of Rose of Babalon Sanctuary, Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica


Past Worshipful Master, Ivanhoe Lodge #446 Ancient, Free and Accepted Masonry Kansas City, Missouri

Presented at the Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica Workshop,

Sekhet Bast Ra Lodge, Ordo Templi Orientis

September 1-3, 2000 e.v.

The Mass of the Gnostic Catholic Church in Ordo Templi Orientis is perhaps the most concise expression of divine mystery ever created. The claim also exists that the most central secrets of our Order are communicated within its text and are symbolically enacted with each performance thereof. Crowley purportedly wrote the Gnostic Mass ceremony around 1912-1915. This would have been before he rewrote the degrees of M\M \M\in 1917-1919. At that time, the Order was using an amalgam of rituals from (among many others) the Swedenborgian Rite of Freemasonry, the Rite of Memphis and of Mizraim, and the teachings and practices of the Hermetic Brotherhood of Light as the foundation of its initiatic teachings. Hence, a great amount of Masonic symbolism exists within the Mass that could yield contextual information should we choose to study it.

But for us, as Soldiers of Freedom, two important questions arise. First, why concern ourselves with anything Masonic? Second, who knows to what level Crowley was intending Masonic interpretation to be applied to the Mass? After all, the E.G.C. is a part of O.T.O., and O.T.O. long ago severed its ties to Masonry. The O.T.O. does not make Masons; it makes Magicians. Masonry is a trapping of the “old aeon,” and has absolutely no bearing on the great work. As it is written, the “rituals of the old time are black.”While these retorts resound with a strong sense of truth, I posit that a vast store of historical treasure is locked away within the vaults of Masonic lore. Most of the rites from whence we sprang are considered to be “dead,” “irregular,” or “clandestine” by modern Masonry. The latter two of these are Masonic terms for “illegal.” But certainly, Masons inthe O.T.O. in the early 1900s, including Reuss, would have recognized and understood most of the symbolism covered in this paper. Examining the forgotten Masonic symbolism in the Gnostic Mass adds a new dimension to our current understanding of it, and helps us to better appreciate our origins as an Order.

The focus of the present work has nothing to do with either Thelema or Ceremonial Magick. I center, as much as is possible, on Masonic customs surviving in the Mass and their relevance to the ritual. Surely, multitudes of other perspectives can be taken to analyze this ritual, and many things that may be expected will not be addressed. To scratch that surface, I would direct you to the website, “The Invisible Basilica of Sabazius.” Also, before continuing, be aware that certain symbols recur, and that items covered in early sections are referenced in later sections. Whether Crowley intended any relevance presented herein is unknown. This means that, though the analysis of this ritual is from a Masonic standpoint, there is no need to ascribe ANY particular significance to ANY of this. This is the New Æon. Let us promulgate the Law of the strong– our Law, and the joy of the world. With that in mind, let the ritual be rightly performed with joy and beauty; keep all arms and legs inside until the vehicle comes to a full and complete stop, and please, enjoy the ride!


Masonic symbolism is present from the very beginning of our Mass. Its Canon begins with these words: IN THE EAST. For us, this means in the direction of Boleskine, our Kiblah. The rites of Masonry are considered to be solar-phallic in nature. Therefore, the East is important because it is the direction from which the sun “rises to open and govern the day” in its diurnal motion. Echoing this further is the High Altar, covered in a crimson cloth and bearing solar symbols.

In a Masonic lodge, which is always a rectangle laid out East and West, the three principal officers are the Worshipful Master, the Senior Warden, and the Junior Warden. The Worshipful Master presides over meetings and initiations from a triple throne on a dais of three steps in the East. The Senior Warden is stationed in the West, the Junior Warden in the South. Upon entering a lodge from the outer door, one notices immense pillars in both western corners of the room. These correspond to the “outer pillars”on Tree of Life, as do the offices of Worshipful Master (Wisdom, hmx)and Senior Warden (Strength, hrwbg). Some rites reverse these attributions. The office of Junior Warden represents the middle pillar (Beauty, tr)pt), which is usually illustrated in Masonic paintings as being broken. This is carried further in a certain Masonic degree, during which beauty is destroyed through a reckless pursuit of knowledge. Note that on the Tree of Life that the continuity up the middle pillar is broken by the Abyss, represented by DA'aTh (t(d), or knowledge. Interesting to note: more than ninety percent of Masons today would not be aware of any of these qabalistic traits so prevalent in their own rite.

In the center of the lodge rests the altar, upon which lay a Bible, a Square, and Compasses. The use of a Bible represents a “volume of sacred law,” and is interchangeable with the Torah or Quran depending upon the majority “faith” of a Masonic Lodge's membership. The altar rests on what is known as the “mosaic pavement,” consisting of black and white squares,and “represents this world, which, though checkered over with good and evil, yet brethren may walk together thereon, and not stumble.”

Here, then, is the comparative geography and geometry of the two temples. Though both are based on the layout of the Tree of Life, the arrangementis more far obscured in the Masonic temple. One last item of note: in tracing a line through the positions of the five principal officers (starting from the east position of the Worshipful Master, then to the southwest position of the Junior Deacon, the northeast position of the Senior Deacon, the south position of the Junior Warden, the west position of the Senior Warden, completing it back to the East), we find a misshapen pentagram.


The Priest bears the Sacred Lance. The lance is viewed in Masonry as a thrusting weapon, as evidenced in the final portion of Section IV, the Ceremony of the Opening of the Veil. In a lodge, the Deacons and Stewards bear Lances, also called “rods.”

The Priest begins the ceremony in a plain white robe, emblematic of purity and innocence.

The Priestess is clothed primarily in blue, the color most commonly associated with Masonry, which starts with the “blue” degrees. It is also symbolic of the celestial canopy, and therefore represents Our Lady, Nuit. She bears the Sword, a symbol of justice, linking conceptually with both Libra and the Atu of Adjustment. The Sword hangs from a red girdle. The girdle symbolizes chastity, purity, and innocence, and is analogous to the white robe of the Priest, or the white apron of a Mason. Being red, it implies a possible connection to the aprons used in Masonry's Royal Arch Degree, and the secrets associated with it.

The Deacon's primary color is yellow. This color was chosen by the ancients to signify the brilliance of the Sun. Because of this, the yellow metal, gold, became the most precious of metals, and bore the same symbolism. The Deacon also bears the Book of the Law, which as we have seen before, is construed Masonically as any book that contains a divine revelation of will.

The Children, who bear the elements themselves, are clothed in white and black. The combination of these two colors represents innocence and purity tempered with silence and secrecy.



The Deacon opens the door, admits the congregation, and goes to his station, prepared to start the Mass. A doorkeeper attends to the admission. At all Masonic functions, there is an officer called the Tyler, who guards the door with a drawn sword. He keeps out all who are not eligible to take part in the proceedings. The sword held by the Tyler is emblematic of the Flaming Sword guarding the Tree of Life.

The Deacon advances and bows before the high altar. The Book of the Law is kissed three times. Three is considered to be one of the “most holy” numbers. Among its many significances are the First Three Degrees, the triads on the Tree, and the points of the Delta, D. The Delta represents deity, especially when it consists of three Iods (y) in a triangular position. This form was eventually abbreviated to that little mysterious “triple-period” so prevalent in the literature of ceremonial magick: \

The Deacon then turns West and addresses the congregation. The Law is proclaimed, and the congregation performs an act signifying unity of purpose: the step and sign of a Man and a Brother. In a Masonic Lodge, when the end of any degree-opening (or closing) ceremony approaches, all members present give the signs of the degree being worked, signifying a union of thought, act, and purpose.

Though the inclusion of a Creed in the Canon of our Church is a consideration stemming from ancient Christian tradition, elements of Masonry are scattered throughout it as well. The 49º and 50º of the Rite of Mizraim are respectively called Discreet Chaos and Wise Chaos. The Sun is a symbol of absolute authority. Baphomet is the deity worshipped by the Templars, according the charges made against them. An interesting point about Baphomet is that the Greek translation of this name breaks down into the words bafe (BAPhE–baptism) and metis (METIS–wisdom): Baptism of Wisdom. What we confess to be how we “accomplish the miracle of incarnation” is revealed as yet another aspect of the “Serpent and the Lion.” We conclude the Creed by reaffirming ourselves as stars that were and are and are to come. This echoes the third verse of the Book of the Law, “Every man and every woman is a star.” In addition, the Swedenborgian Rite refers to its members as “Stars of the Temple.”

The Priestess now enters with the Children and they deploy into line. The Deacon leads all in giving the Hailing Sign of a Magician. The word “hail” is used in several Masonic terms, referring to signs, tokens, and words. The word as used in their oaths of obligation descends from the Saxon root word “HELAN,” meaning to conceal or hide. A Hailing Sign then, in this sense, refers to certain secrets or concepts that we are sworn to protect, preserve, and practice.

The Priestess and the Children, in delta formation, circle the Temple3½ times. She then pulls down the veil of the Tomb with her Sword and calls forth the Priest. The Priest issues forth, holding the Lance with hands positioned right over left. Masonic Deacons and Stewards, when holding their rods with both hands, always hold them with hands right over left. The Priest then takes the first three regular steps. In each degree of Masonry, the candidate is taught a “step,” representing the manner by which the he approaches the “East,” or seat of wisdom. The Priest gives the three penal signs, which in this sense can be interpreted as commitment with mouth (throat), heart, and body to the Mysteries. It also represents the three acts of making sacrificial offerings: of the head, breast, and “lower part” of the burnt sacrifice. This further alludes to the three principal Lodge officers and further still to the Pillars of the Tree of Life, for the head symbolizes Wisdom, the breast – Strength (and Love), and the legs – Beauty. He kneels and confesses.

Throughout the first sections, until she has been enthroned upon the high altar, the Priestess is referred to as the “Virgin.” According to the writings of Peter Davidson, the Virgin is the ripe, perfect soul that aids in the operation of the Regeneration of Man. She becomes no longer material, but of divine substance, and through this process of Regeneration, man becomes simultaneously material and divine. This can therefore be seen as an aspect of the Priestess' role in the ceremony. She purifies the Priest with the feminine elements and consecrates him with the masculine elements. He is robed and crowned with scarlet and gold. Scarlet represents zeal and ardor for the fraternity, but also is emblematic of fire, purification, and regeneration.

The Priestess consecrates the lance with eleven gentle strokes. The number eleven, in masonic terms, generally refers to the number of faithful apostles after the betrayal in the Christian legends. This is further alluded to in the Commanderies of Knights Templar, which must have eleven officers to open. However, it is a general practice among Thelemites to delivera battery of eleven as being broken down into the familiar 333-55555-333 pattern: a five surrounded by threes. Five is the rejection of unity, 1, by conjoining the first even number, 2, with the first odd number, 3, exemplifying the marriage of Order with Chaos, the sole vice-regent of the Sun upon the Earth. In this case, it is heralded both before and after by a proclamation of holiness from the triple-batteries. All then give the Hailing Sign again, further affirming the work at hand and serving as a reminder of the Mysteries.


The Priest invokes with the lifted Lance and the Hailing Sign is again made. He leads the Priestess to the East and sets her upon the summit of the Earth, the High Altar upon which rest the Paten and Hosts. The Priestess holds the Book of the Law open upon her breast with her hands in the position of a descending delta. He sprinkles her with five crosses, then repeats with the censer. He kisses the Book of the Law three times, kneels and adores, then rises and closes the veil (for a fuller treatment of interpretations of the veil, see section VI below: Of the Consecration of the Elements).

The congregation rises. The Priest, followed by the Deacon and the Children, circumambulate the Temple three times, after which all but the Priest kneel in adoration in the attitude of an aspirant. The Priest mounts the first step. Think back for a moment to the earlier references to steps. He is now again approaching the East (seat of Wisdom) upon three steps, and is preparing to under go a “Baptism of Wisdom.” On the first step, he invokes the generative force and addresses the Priestess in the attitude of the Priest of the Princes. The Priestess responds by invoking Nuit, and answering him in her form. On the second step, the Priest identifies himself with the secret of secrets and invokes Hadit. There is another Hailing Sign, the Deacon informs the congregation of the Thelemic calendar, and the Priest mounts the third step. He addresses our Lord in the Universe the Sun, and calls upon him by the Sign of Light to appear, enlighten, encourage, and fulfill. He invokes with the Holiest of all Mantras. The Priestess declares the Law. The Priest parts the veil with the Lance.

In the ensuing Greek invocation, we find a few terms that are of Masonic significance. The first of these is IO. This word is emblematic of the union of the masculine (represented by the letter I) with the feminine (represented by the letter O). Next is IAO SABAO, which may be seen as a derivation from IHVH SABAOTh (tw)bs hwhy), or Jehovah of Hosts from the “prophetical” books of the Bible. ABRASAX (ABRASAC ) is also Abraxas, symbolic of the year, or path of the Earth around the Sun. MEITHRAS (MEIQRAS),the corrected form of Mithras, is a solar deity, the Lord of Generation. Last is PHALLE (FALLE), the “male generative force” and microcosmic reference to the solar macrocosm.

The Priestess puts down the elements of the Eucharist, kisses the Lance eleven times and takes it. The Priest adores, and while the Deacon intones the Collects the congregation stands to order with the Dieu Garde. This French term for “god-form” has been corrupted by English and American Masonry into “due guard,” and redefined to refer to secrets being “duly guarded.” It alludes to the position in which the hands are placed by a candidate while taking a solemn oath of obligation, hence “god-form” would be a far more accurate definition of the term.


Every prayer conducted in a Masonic lodge concludes with the word “Amen.” The entire lodge responds with the words, “So mote it be.” The earliest appearance of this phrase in a Masonic context dates back five hundred to one thousand years, from a work known as the “Halliwell Poem.” According to legend, this poem is the original set of constitutions adopted by Masonry, and briefly explains the introduction of the fraternity to England. In addition, it gives a rough history of “sacred geometry.” However, some contend that the modern Masonic definition of the letter “G” as the initial of “Geometry” is incorrect, and should instead be substituted with the similar word “Gematria.” This would make more sense, considering the importance Masonry places on certain numbers and words, as well as the qabalistic layout of the lodge room described in the first section of the present work.

The Sun is emblematic of divine truth. It rules the day as the Moon governs the night. The Sun commands over the changing of the year and theMoon commands the cycle of months. Hence, as the Sun is Masonically the King of Heaven, so is the Moon the Queen of Heaven. She also at times represents Isis, or the “female generative force.”

Then we come to the list of Saints. Many are made reference to in Masonic literature, including Krishna, who is described as an Indian Christ. Mosheh, or Moses, was trained in Egyptian mysticism and received the Law for the Hebrews. Dionysos, or Bacchus to the Greeks, was murdered by the Titans. His mystery therefore has been likened to that of Osiris, slain and mutilated by Set. Hermes is the Roman Mercury, who is also the Egyptian Thoth, or Tahuti. Melchizedek is represented as a priest of Meithraic origin. He is credited with beginning the Eucharistic practice of offering bread and wine. Amoun is a secret, concealed Lord from whom all things emanate. One aspect of Amoun is called Khem, who has one hand stretched to the heavens and one stretched toward the earth. Orpheus is credited with introducingsacred initiatic rites and mysticism to the Greeks. Pythagoras taught metempsychosis,or “soul transmigration.” He also stressed the importance of numerological symbolism. Roger Bacon is noted as a Rosicrucian, and denounced ignorant hypocrisies inherent in the church at the time. Jacques de Molay was burned at the stake for recanting his confession extracted under torture and proclaiming the innocence of the Knights Templar. Christian Rosenkreuz is the metaphor upon which Rosicrucianism is based. Michael Maier brought Rosicrucianism to England and wrote many works on the subject. Jacob Boehme was a mystic, attracting a number of Masonic disciples who sought to incorporate his doctrines into the Mysteries. Lord Verulam's New Atlantis supplied many metaphors that later turned up in Masonic literature. John Valentine Andreä wrote the first public documents on Rosicrucianism. Andreä is considered by some to be the “grandfather” of Masonry, but the title of “Father of Masonry” has been bestowed upon Robert Fludd. Elias Ashmole recorded the History of the Order of the Garter and was an influential Mason in the seventeenth century. Adam Weishaupt, also known as Frater Spartacus, founded the Bavarian Order of Illuminati. Goethe was a long-time Mason who made many favorable allusions to the fraternity in his works. Eliphas Levi worked to tie Magickal symbolism to the high degrees of Masonry. Gerard Encausse, in addition to helping expose the Taxil forgeries, established a Martinist Order. After examining the calibre of individuals in this list, the reasons why they are included becomes quite clear.

The Collect of the Principles is riddled with references to the Tree of Life. We first find three numbers; three, four, and seven (3 + 4 = 7).As discussed before, three is a holy number. Four is the number of letters in the names of deity in several systems. Seven is a significant number in several systems, but perhaps its more applicable translation in this instance would be “fulfilled,” or “complete.” Some rites place special significance on the heptagram. We commonly associate this symbol with the Star of Babalon or the Mark of the Beast. It is historically associated with the seven intermediary angels between deity and humanity who govern the seven planets. They are also the planets themselves, represented by each point of the figure, with the Tetragrammaton emblazoned across the center. The topic of Love is also bound into this Collect. P.B. Randolph's “first principle” places Love at the Foundation of all, and equates it with deity. Further, there are references to Tiphareth regarding mystic loves and Geburah in the discussion of Will. The Blazing Star is emblematic of Truth in some systems, of Love in others. It also stands for the Sun, in the macrocosmic hexagram, and for Humans, in the microcosmic pentagram.Five and six equal eleven, the number of letters in the word ABRAHADABRA, the traditional Thelemic “battery,” et cetera.

Death, Masonically speaking, is generally viewed as a transitory period of sleep before reincarnation. It is also the completion and consummation of initiation.


This portion of our Mass is not necessarily Masonic in nature, and is primarily derived from practices of the Eastern Orthodox Churches. They believed the True Mysteries of the Eucharist were so holy that the laity were unworthy to view them in full. To this end, they constructed a device called the Iconostasis. It was a large screen decorated with fine jewels, separating the Sanctuary, or High Altar, from the laity. The screen had openings or sliding doors in certain places, and at particular points throughout the consecration process, the Priest would display the host to the congregation. According to the 88° of the Rite of Memphis (Grand Elect of the Sacred Curtain), the Iconostasis was of Egyptian origin, also passing into Greek worship of Apollo and the Eleusian Mysteries. Masonically, it represents the distinction between the exoteric and the esoteric.

Resurrection, though not considered a part of Masonic dogma, is symbolized in several degrees. It found its way into Masonry by way of the Romans, through the Greeks, from the Egyptians in their Mysteries.

The Priest then offers the elements up our Lord and Father the Sun, in his name “ON.” According to Albert Mackey, a prominent Masonic historian, it is the name of a city in Lower Egypt known for solar worship.

The ceremonies of some higher degrees of Masonry include a “Communion of the Brethren,” consisting of a consecrated bread and wine. This communion attested to their sincerity of the offering and renewed their covenant of friendship.


This section of the Mass is adapted from Crowley's play, “The Ship.” It is an excellent retelling of a particular Masonic drama, and can yield great stores of information if properly investigated. In this play, themain character is murdered through treachery, and is resurrected after a manner. Following the “resurrection,” this character consecrates and partakes of a sacrament. He then invokes the Lord of Mystery with the “Tu Qui Es…” which is more commonly known as the Anthem of our Mass.

This Anthem is rife with symbolism, running the gamut from Sexual to Masonic to Rosicrucian. All of it can be summed up in the concepts of balance and harmony: the union of opposites, the 0 = 2 formula, et cetera. It is symbolized among Rosicrucians by the Rose and Cross, and among Masons by the Square and Compasses. It is symbolized in the Scottish system as the Double-Headed Eagle, and among us, to an extent, as Baphomet.

In some systems, the Ash refers to Yggdrasil, concealing the sacred and secret capitol city of the Norse Gods. Of its three roots, one is in the realm of the Giants (concealing the well-spring of Wisdom), one is amongst the Gods (Beauty), and one covers Hell (Strength, or Lust).


The Priest blesses the elements. He arouses them. Then he and the Priestess create the Sacrament. In keeping with the nature of the Anthem, as wellas with the majority of the ceremony, the Serpent and the Lion are thrice invoked.

The Priest and the People declare the Law to one another. The Priest consumes the sacrament, declares godhood, and invites the People to do the same. The Deacon marshals them. In the Masonic process of voting on a prospective candidate, the “whiteball/blackball” scenario, the voting members are marshaled by the Senior Deacon. It seems such a minor point to bring up after what has been going on, but it is, after all, a Masonic similarity.

All Masonic meetings and initiations close with a benediction, invoking the blessing of Heaven, and reaffirming their fraternal ties to one another. The benediction ends with the word “Amen,” the reply to which is “So mote it be!”


It is my sincerest hope that you have enjoyed this little excursiondown Mystery Lane. What conclusions can be drawn? All we have done is look at this ritual from a sort of historical point of focus. It is simply impossible to know whether any of this “symbolism” is necessary for today's context of our wonderful central rite. One thing is certain however; here now is a ritual that holds a different meaning for you than it did one hour ago. It has been opened to a wider perspective.

In researching this project, I learned a far more about the Mass, Masonry, and O.T.O. than I expected. It is double the size I had intended it to be. If you are interested in further investigating this subject, I highly recommend all of the resources utilized for my research. There were dozens of illuminating tangents I could have examined, but neither space nor time permitted them.

Therefore in closing, with this work being complete, all I will say is:




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