Step off with your Left Foot
"A man had been convicted of murder and was about to be hanged. Just before the sentence was executed, the hangman asked the man if he had any last words.
"Yes" came his reply, "I hate Masons!" "Why do you hate Masons?" asked the hangman. "The man I killed was a Mason," explained the murderer, "the sheriff who hunted me down was a Mason, the Prosecutor who tried my case was a Mason, the Judge was a Mason, and all of the men on the jury who found me guilty and said I should be hanged were Masons, so I hate Masons!" "Well," replied the hangman, "I can understand why you would hate Masons, but we must get on with it, are you ready?" "Yes" replied the convicted murder. "Step off with your left foot."
In all walks of life, it is customary to take the first step with the right foot but in Freemasonry, the first step is always with the Left Foot. Why is that?
Masonry, being a peculiar system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols once again proves its point. Apparently, not only the secrets of a Master Mason have been lost with the death of H A, but also a lot of the symbols and allegories seem to have slipped into oblivion. It is the task of every Mason to advance in Masonry on a daily basis, if not to ensure that whatever still remains, is properly understood and effected upon. And if possible, to indulge in research, to at least attempt to recover as much as possible of what was lost, not for personal gain, but for the benefit of mankind.
First when we visit the temple of King Solomon. In the following journey, you are a Fellow Craft, on his way to collect his wages in the middle chamber of the temple.
As you reach the temple, you first cross the two pillars and enter. You come across winding stairs. As you enter, you notice that the stairs have a set of three steps, followed by a set of five steps, and finally a set of seven steps. Thus there are fifteen steps. This odd number of steps is not without purpose. The purpose is that you are supposed to start with your left foot, so that you, when you reach the entrance of the temple, you step out with your left foot. We start with the left foot down the staircase to arrive with our left foot at the entrance of the temple. But, let me also not keep you from you the rest of your journey, since it is full of symbolism.
(Please note previous newsletters on bottom of page, for further reading.)
The first three steps allude to the three great lights of freemasonry: the Square, the Compass, and the Volume of Sacred Law. They also allude to the three lesser light of freemasonry: the Sun, the Moon and the Master of the Lodge.
The next five steps allude to the five senses of men. Reminding us to exercise due control over our senses. They also allude to the five architectural orders: Tuscan, Doric, Ionic, Corinthian and Composite. Each order had its specialization and you could see the workmanship of each of such order in the Temple. They also allude to the five points of fellowship.
The last set of seven steps alludes to the seven liberal arts and sciences: grammar, logic, rhetoric, arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy. It reminds you that you are expected to keep on improving your skills in these seven disciplines.
As you reach the outer door, you find that the door is half open, guarded by the Junior Warden, who demands a password. After due satisfaction, you are allowed to enter. There is one more door to be crossed, credentials to be established again to the Senior Warden who lets you in the Middle Chamber.
As you enter, you see a great light emanating from the letter G which is hanging at the Eastern side. The light is so intense that you find it difficult to see any other thing. As your eyes slowly get accustomed to the dazzling light, you notice King Solomon standing on the East together with Hiram, the King of Tyre, and H.B. holding the registers in their hands. They inspect the register and calculate the wages due to you. The wages are paid to you in the form of corn, oil and wine. There was Corn to feed you, wine to help you charge you energies, and the oil to apply to your body.
Having taken your wages, you salute King Solomon, and withdraw from the Lodge, with a promise to return again, whenever summoned.
It is amazing to see that every single step in the Ritual Working is replete with meaning and can be interpreted in numerous ways, observe the similarity in this sequence of 3, 5 and 7 steps on the staircase with other parts of our rituals: “Three rule a Lodge, five hold a Lodge, and seven make it perfect” or even more, the number of Steps taken by the candidate before taking the solemn obligation are likewise 3 in the first degree, 5 in the second, and 7 seven in the third. But still no reason why we step of with the left foot first.
So to go back to before the Fellowcraft, when we arrive at the Masonic Temple as an Initiate. We are blindfolded and led reverently to the East where the Three Great though emblematical Lights of Masonry await us.
Our progress from Ignorance to Wisdom with the help of the Light from Above to our ultimate destination of attaining Immortality is what Masonry is all about. So, just as being blindfolded and the subsequent restoration of material comfort of physical light is an emblematical representation of our progress from darkness unto light, so the Left Foot forward represents our preparedness to fight Ignorance with Masonic Light. Left Foot forward is a combative stance. Left foot forward gives strength and stability to the Right Hand and loads it with Power to strike. When we enter Masonry, we are at war with our Ignorance and we take a combative posture to fight it out and banish it. As a contrast, when we arrive at a place in a gesture of friendship, we take the Right Foot Forward thus stripping the Right Hand of all its striking power so that it is offered in friendship.
Bro. C.W. Leadbeater, 33°, in his book “The Hidden Life in Freemasonry” and leads us to another part of the First degree ceremony:
“When the W. M. calls his Lodge to order, all adopt a certain attitude of attention, with a step and a sign, both of which are highly symbolical, and have remained unchanged for a very long period. It should be distinctly understood that a man who joins Freemasonry does thereby take a step forward in evolution, and the fact that his identification as a freemason begins with that step, is a constant reminder and acknowledgement of that. The Left Foot, because it is nearest to the heart, symbolizes the intuition, while the right foot is supposed to represent intellectual faculty. The meaning of the step is therefore obviously that in occult matters intuition always takes precedence over the mere reasoning process. The position adopted is intended to show that reason must always spring from the centre of right feeling “
Even though this clearly makes a distinction between the left and the right foot, and even denotes a meaning to them, it still does not give an answer as to where this practice, or meaning comes from.
Symbolically, the step means that a man, who joins Masonry, does thereby take a step forward in his evolution towards perfection and the fact that his identification as a Freemason begins with that step is a constant reminder and acknowledgement of that.
The Can. is then told to step off with the left foot first. Why? Because the Preserver in ancient mythology is always depicted as trampling with his left foot on the Serpent of Evil. This is so, alike in ancient Egypt, in India and elsewhere.
It may also be well to point out that our ceremonies have come in contact, at various periods, with many different religious beliefs, and this fact explains why there are often several meanings attached to certain points in the ritual.
The great serpent, Apepi, in Egypt, represents the powers of spiritual evil, e.g. the Devil. But it also speci- fically refers to ignorance, according to the Indian legend in which Krishna tramples on the five-headed cobra. The five heads, moreover, also have a reference to our five senses, which in that allegory must be cleansed of every evil Thought.
Among many primitive races there is a superstition that when entering a shed where rice is stored one must enter right foot first, "so as not to hurt the Spirit who rules over the rice store." The same idea prevails among these people wherever food is stored,
and we here get an explanation of "left foot first."
When fighting against the Spirit of Evil you do desire to hurt him, and so reverse the superstition, and step off left foot first.
Thus we may consider that the World is represented by the Cable Tow. and hoodwink, and the brotherhood helps us to free ourselves from them. The Flesh is represented by the first regular step in which we "trample" on the Tau Cross , while the Devil is represented by the snake, of whose existence we are reminded by the warning to "step off with the left foot first."
W.M. instructs the Can. in the first regular step which on investigation proves to be the tau cross.
The tau cross was orginally the phallus, and has many inner meanings. It is the emblem of generation, and creation, but since these powers may be prostituted they
must be brought under control. As the first regular step, it represents our natural and animal passions, which must be trampled underfoot and brought under complete
control, otherwise we cannot make any advancement in Freemasonry. In plain language, unless we bring our passions into complete subjection, we cannot hope to advance towards a true knowledge of God. For that, I
consider, is the real search, or quest, in Freemasonry.