"Judah is the lion's whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he stooped down, he crouched like a lion, and as a lion, who shall rouse him up?"
Gen. 49: 9
In the tribal benediction pronounced upon Judah and the tribe of which he was the founder, the term lion's whelp symbolized strength. Therefore, the emblem on the banner of the Tribe of Judah was a lion.
To our Christian brothers, the phrase "Lion of the Tribe of Judah" refers to the Messiah, who is said to have brought light and immortality into the world. To our Jewish brothers, Judah was the fourth son of the patriarch Jacob and represents the fourth point discussed in ancient Freemasonry. Both Kings David and Solomon are also said to have descended from the Tribe of Judah.
Candidates who successfully passed the Mithraic initiations were called Lions and were marked on their foreheads with the Egyptian Cross or ankh. Throughout the entire Mithraic ritual references were made of Mithra as the Sun God, who came to earth to offer himself as a sacrifice for man and by his death giving men eternal life.
Although popularized by the Romans and the belief that at least one Roman Emperor was initiated into the Roman Emperor, order, the Rites of Mithra was of Persian origin and later migrated to Southern Europe. "Mithra" is the Zend-Avesta title for the sun and he / she dwelled within that orb. Mithra was both male and female and, as a deity, represented the "feminine principle." That phrase has been recently popularized in the work of fiction by Dan Brown entitled The Da Vinci Code. However, as opposed to representing the Holy Grail, as did Mary Magdalene in Brown's work, the female side of Mithra represented Nature while the male side represented the sun that bathed Nature so that flora and fauna would grow. With this understanding, it is easier to understand the connection between Freemasonry and the Rites of Mithra.
In a Masonic symbolism book, Masons are taught that sacred pythagorean geometry connects man to nature by teaching him about his most concealed recesses; how things in nature are connected; and that numberless worlds surround mankind which the Great Architect of the Universe has connected through the laws of nature. It is correctly stated that a survey of nature first caused man to study symmetry and order which led to the discovery of every useful art. Freemasonry also teaches that the Supreme Intelligence pervades all nature and is further described in the Book of Revelation as the Sea of Glass.
The Masonic Symbolism Book Rites of Mithra also gave Freemasonry the symbolism of the lesser lights, ie, the sun, moon and Mercury (later replaced with Master of the lodge). That symbolism is intended to explain the natural order of hierarchical authority – as the sun rules the day and the moon governs the night, so should the Worshipful Master, with equal regularity, rule and govern the lodge. Yet, even with such pervasive evidence of the Mithraic influences on Freemasonry, what is the significance of the grip of the lion's paw?
Those initiated into the Mithraic mysteries passed through three important degrees. In the first degree, the candidate was taught about his own spiritual nature which must be manifested through disciplined conduct. In the second degree, the candidate was instructed that he represented the mediator between good and evil, and was sent into a dark pit to fight against the beasts of lust. Finally, in the third degree, he was provided with a cape with designs of the zodiac, including the sign of Leo, which represented a lion. The candidate is said to have risen from the grave by the power generated by the sun's influence on Leo – or the strong grip of the lion's paw. In that other Mithraic symbolisms are found in Masonic symbolism, the possibility that this symbolism also originated from those rites can not be ignored. Yet, even know, what is the symbolic significance of Masons?
Mithra derived from the teachings of Zarathrustra which taught that good and evil existed in the world side-by-side. Masons are taught by one of its "ornaments" that human existence is checked with good and evil. Real life experiences prove to be so – the battle between good and evil was vividly on display during the Second World War, as well as during the course of other well known conflicts. The Rites of Mithra also teach that eventually good will prevail over evil, as symbolized by the energy of the sun rising every day in the east.
As Freemasons passes through the three degrees required to finally achieve the status of Master Mason, they become starkly aware that the Craft demands them a participation in exercises designed to make them morally straight – good soldiers for the cause of good in the conflict between good and evil, light and darkness. Symbolically rising from the tomb of transgression, the candidate is at last acknowledged as being sufficiently prepared to exemplify goodness to the rest of the world. Whether or not he makes good use of those tools as Master Masons in the past is strictly up to the individual candidate. He may choose goodness or evil, light or darkness; and in so doing either creates the temple where the Supreme Architect of the Universe will reside, or the tomb in which evil will eventually be cast.
The Freemason who knows why he was raised will never, never, never die. He was not raised by falsehood and chicanery – he was raised by the grip of the lion's paw
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