Actionable Alchemy: Mind, Body, and Soul in Freemasonry

Comparing the Gauge to the Trinity of Mercury, Sulphur, and Salt, or Mind, Body, and Soul.

It is said that good things come in threes.

Also, celebrity deaths come in threes…

Basically, three is a weird number that portends good and bad things, but it comes up a lot in Freemasonry. Drizzled throughout our degrees (all three!) and our rituals, things tend to come in a convenient triple set. Three times three! Vivat! Vivat! Vivat!

This shows up in alchemy as well, most notably in the three principle substances of Mercury, Sulphur, and Salt. In alchemy they represent the concepts of mind, body, and soul (not in that order).

The Salt is the body, representing the material plane and Earth.

The Mercury is the mind or spirit, that quick, flowing emotionality and reason of thought.

Sulphur is the soul, representing that transformative fire that creates and destroys and creates again.

Off the top of my head there are at least two places where this symbolism comes into blue lodge Freemasonry. The first is our speculative wages.

Sulphur is also representative of oil, which makes sense as both are associated with flame. Mercury, associated with the spirit, unsurprisingly represents spirits, or wine. And Salt, representing all things Earthly can be linked to corn. So your wages of corn, wine, and oil are, in a sense, wages of salt, mercury, and sulphur, or the body, mind, and spirit.

But that’s weird. How are my wages as a Fellowcraft my own mind, body, and soul? That’s like saying “you’ll get paid in exposure” by doing work for free. Well, first your employer isn’t the lodge or the foreman of your operative worksite. Your employer is your Creator, and He has paid you in these three tools of mind, body, and soul.

Second, just like your physical wages at your IRL job, they’re not a gift to enjoy but a tool to use to improve your life, and the lives of your loved ones. So how do we use these tools to improve those things? For that I turn to the other place where “three” takes a prominent role: The 24-inch Gauge.

As I detail in my book, Practical Freemasonry, the 24-inch Gauge represents not just a division of our time, but an equitable division of our attention to the three principle areas of life: the Self, the Tribe, and Society.

So you’re probably asking can I shoehorn one into the other? Absolutely.

The body is the most obvious physical representation of the Self, as taking care of oneself is, in great part, a physical act. Sleeping well and eating well are physical. Mental and emotional health have a large physical component in brain chemistry, and are as well affected by good food and sleep. Even spiritual health is partly a bodily act.

The mind, being the home to our thoughts, memories, and experiences, fits snugly into our tribe which includes our family, friends, and lodge, which are those with whom we share those thoughts, memories, and experiences.

The soul is our representation into a much larger existence on a much higher plane, and this can be likened to our own presence in society, where though we may not interact with or touch every other living soul, but we are an interwoven part of the fabric of society, contributing to the zeitgeist of the world.

So what do we do with all these conspiratorial connections?

I believe we acknowledge that, as in the principle of “as above, so below” we can find a correspondence not only in the symbolism of these sets, but in their application as well. As discussed in Practical Freemasonry, the meaning of the 24-inch Gauge is a life balance between Self, Tribe, and Society, so that we may live in accordance with our best gifts and values.

Thus when considering our wages, we internalize that these areas of life which we must balance are, in fact, a gift from our Creator. Our Selves, Family and Friends, and Society are payments for the services rendered of playing our role in His Grand Designs.

And when we consider the sacred elements of Salt, Mercury, and Sulphur, we know that to be truly actualized as a divine entity, we cannot solely live in the world of the Soul, giving only thought to our spiritual being, nor can we get lost in the minutia of the intellectual pursuits of Freemasonry or science, and most certainly cannot be totally absorbed in bodily pleasures or sensations, either from vices of hedonism or even the virtues of clean living.

Truth does not live in the body, the mind, or the soul. It lay in the center of a perfect, equilateral triangle of all three in balance.

Like what you’re reading?

How about buying the book! Practical Freemasonry: Accessible Philosophy for Working-Class Schlubs takes the reader on a tour of the working tools of blue lodge Freemasonry, teaches you their uses in exciting new ways and gives actionable instructions on how to use these tools to make your life better.