Modern Third-Degree Masonic Tracing Board. 2006 Digital illustration Gregory B. Stewart
This work is a modern representation of the Masonic First-Degree Tracing Boards of old. It is filled with metaphor and symbolism, fluent to all Apprentice Masons.
Tracing boards are visual mnemonics created to illustrate the meanings and principals of Freemasonry as taught within the degrees. The symbolism is very Western, but the symbolism has been adapted for the modern mason.
In the image there are many symbolic cues. In adapting this piece, the most significant change is the replacing of the Holy Bible with the major religious symbols of the world. These symbols of faith, in my opinion, represent the modern Freemason.
What this work represents visually is the journey through which the a neophyte becomes an apprentice mason. On that journey, he is introduced to the three Graces, the allegorical ladder, and the idea of the pillars, crowned here with the sun, moon and blazing star in the canopy of the heavens.
Since this work was originally created it has appeared in a number of locations around the world including as murals, covers to esoteric works and emblems of fraternal societies. It strikes a cord for many at a deep level, capturing the essence of initiation into Freemasonry.
Ein Sof (or Ayn Sof) into Malkuth: The Endless One, No End, Unending, Becoming, 2014 Pen and ink Gregory B. Stewart
Originally created as the major frontispiece for The Apprentice, the following is a short selection of the descriptive text that accompanied it. It reads:
Upon the frontispiece of this short work is an illustration depicting the transformative journey from chaos to order – from Ein Sof into the sphere of Malkuth.
Those looking upon this image for the conventions of Masonic initiation will not see them and become quickly lost in its relevant symbolism and devices. While this board purports to hold secret symbolism, its allegorical lesson is not in its many parts, but in its overall message of transformation. What it represents is initiation and transformation, from chaos to order (ordo ab chao), presenting the initiate the opportunity to ascend higher into the limbs of the majestic Kabbalistic Tree of Life, itself a metaphor of transformation in understanding our evolution to the divine.
The chaos from which we come is like a network of roots warped and entwined, choking and starving for nourishment that comes from the light above. Its network striking deep into the foundations of the Prima Materia, the primal earth, never knowing or understanding that their nourishment and growth comes from above.
The Allegorical Tree, 2015
Pen and ink
Gregory B. Stewart
This work was devised as the small frontispiece image and book cover for the work, The Apprentice,
Originally appearing barely larger than a postage stamp, the symbolism at work in this image resonates much more deeply when observed at a larger scale. In it, the tree represents a literal tree of life, emulating the movement and nuance of the imagined tree of the Kabbalistic tradition.
The tree of life is a symbolic representation of an inner journey through progressive steps of enlightenment. The present-day symbol has been adapted from Western Mysticism which has syncretic origins from Jewish mysticism through the adoption of the Kabbalah. In both these approaches, the symbol functions as a scaffold or schema where the initiate progresses up and down the structure through various learnings and meditations.
In this use, the tree of life is a direct representation through the degrees of blue lodge and Scottish Rite Freemasonry.
By taking that path, the literal and allegorical tree of life grows and branches up into the higher degrees. While this may not be part of the masonic cannon, it has found resonance in many of the esoteric aspects of the first three and higher degrees.