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The Tracing Board


Introduction

We use Tracing Boards during our ceremonies to illustrate important aspects of Freemasonry to the Brethren of the Lodge.
Below is the narrative which does this during the Ceremony of Initiation.


Explanation of the First Degree Tracing Board

Zetland Hall 1st Degree Tracing Board

The usages and customs among Freemasons have ever borne a near affinity to those of the ancient Egyptians.   Their philosophers, unwilling to expose their mysteries to vulgar eyes, couched their systems of learning and polity under signs and hieroglyphical figures, which were communicated to their chief priests or Magi alone, who were bound by solemn oath to conceal them.
The system of Pythagoras was founded on a similar principle, as well as many others of more recent date.
Masonry, however, is not only the most ancient but the most honourable Society that ever existed, as there is not a character or emblem here depicted but serves to inculcate the principles of piety and virtue among all its genuine professors.
Let me first call your attention to the form of the Lodge which is a regular parallelepipedon, in length from East to West, in breadth between North and South, in depth from the surface of the earth to the centre, and even as high as the heavens.
The reason that a Freemason's Lodge is described of this vast extent is to show the universality in the science; likewise, a Mason's charity should know no bounds save those of prudence.

Our Lodges stand on holy ground, because the first Lodge was consecrated on account of three grand offerings thereon made, which met with Divine approbation.

Abraham prepares Issac for sacrifice

First, the ready compliance of Abraham with the will of God in not refusing to offer up his son Isaac as a burnt sacrifice, when it pleased the Almighty to substitute a more agreeable victim in his stead.

King David praying to God

Secondly, the many pious prayers and ejaculations of King David, which actually appeased the wrath of God, and stayed a pestilence which then raged among his people, owing to his inadvertently having had them numbered.

King Solomon's Temple

Thirdly, the many thanksgivings, oblations, burnt sacrifices, and costly offerings which Solomon, King of Israel, made at the completion, dedication and consecration of the Temple at Jerusalem to God's service.


Our Lodges are situated due East and West, because all places of Divine worship, as well as Masons' regular, well-formed, constituted Lodges, are, or ought to be, so situated; for which we assign three Masonic reasons:
First, the Sun, the Glory of the Lord, rises in the East and sets in the West;
Second, learning originated in the East, and thence spread its benign influence to the West;
The third, last, and grand reason, which is too long to be entered upon now, is explained in the course of our Lectures, which I hope you will have many opportunities of hearing.


Our Lodges are supported by three great pillars.   They are called Wisdom, Strength, and Beauty: Wisdom to contrive, Strength to support, and Beauty to adorn; Wisdom to conduct us in all our undertakings, Strength to support us under all our difficulties, and Beauty to adorn the inward man.

The Universe is the Temple of the Deity whom we serve; Wisdom, Strength, and Beauty are about His throne as pillars of His works, for His Wisdom is infinite, His Strength omnipotent, and Beauty shines through the whole of the creation in symmetry and order.

The heavens He has stretched forth as a canopy; the earth He has planted as His footstool; He crowns His Temple with Stars as with a diadem, and with His hands He extends the Power and Glory.   The Sun and Moon are messengers of His will, and all His law is concord.


Wisdom, Strength and Beauty

The three great Pillars supporting a Freemason's Lodge are emblematic of those Divine attributes, and further represent Solomon King of Israel, Hiram King of Tyre, and Hiram Abif; Solomon King of Israel for his Wisdom in building, completing and dedicating the Temple at Jerusalem to God's service; Hiram King of Tyre for his Strength in supporting him with men and materials: and Hiram Abif, for his curious and masterly workmanship in beautifying and adorning the same.
But as we have no noble orders in Architecture known by the names of Wisdom, Strength, and Beauty, we refer them to the three most celebrated, which are the Ionic, Doric and Corinthian.

Jacob's Ladder

The covering of a Masonic Lodge is a celestial canopy of divers colours even the heavens.  The way by which we, as Masons, hope to arrive there is by the assistance of a ladder, in Scripture called Jacob's ladder.   It is composed of many staves or rounds, which point out as many moral virtues, but three principal ones, which are Faith, Hope, and Charity:  Faith in the Great Architect of the Universe, Hope in salvation, And to be in Charity with all men.

 

Seven Stars

It reaches to the Heavens, and rests on the Volume of the Sacred Law, because, by the doctrines contained in that Holy Book, we are taught to believe in the dispensations of Divine Providence, which belief strengthens our Faith, and enables us to ascend the first step;  this Faith naturally creates in us a Hope of becoming partakers of the blessed promises therein recorded, which Hope enables us to ascend the second step;  but the third and last being Charity, comprehends the whole, and the Mason who is possessed of this virtue in its most ample sense may justly be deemed to have attained the summit of his profession;   figuratively speaking, an Ethereal Mansion, veiled from mortal eyes by the starry firmament, emblematically depicted here by seven stars, which have an allusion to as many regularly made Masons, without which number no Lodge is perfect, neither can any candidate be legally initiated into the Order.


The interior of a Freemasons' Lodge is composed of Ornaments, Furniture, and Jewels.  The Ornaments of the Lodge are the Mosaic pavement, the Blazing Star, and the Indented or Tessellated Border; the Mosaic pavement is the beautiful flooring of a Freemason's Lodge, the Blazing Star the glory in the centre, and the Indented or Tessellated Border, the skirtwork round the same.

Pavement

The Mosaic pavement may justly be deemed the beautiful flooring of a Freemasons' Lodge, by reason of its being variegated and chequered.  This points out the diversity of objects which decorate and adorn the creation, the animate as well as the inanimate parts thereof.