The Gothic cathedrals are an enduring mystery left over from medieval Europe; built a thousand years ago, these stunning stone skyscrapers still leave scholars puzzled as to the methods behind their construction. One of the most striking and enigmatic cathedrals is Chartres Cathedral in France; it has long baffled scholars and laymen alike, who claim it is no ordinary building. In fact it is not, and nor were her designers ordinary builders: they were “operative” Freemasons who had a sense of secret empowerment that they crafted into the cathedral, using their secrets of design to create a monument capable of uplifting others.
Above: Different views of Chartres Cathedral.
Chartres Cathedral, built in the 12th century, is both one of the greatest and most controversial achievements of Western architecture. Few people understand that Chartres is in many ways just as mysterious and baffling as the Great Pyramid of Giza. Over the centuries, several writers have commented that Chartres is not a Christian monument:
“It feels like heresy to say so, but there is something not quite Christian about Chartres Cathedral. Or perhaps one should say that it is somehow super-Christian, a place that connects the central spiritual tradition of the western world to a more ancient, strange and mysterious narrative.
—Philip Ball – Universe of Stone, A Biography of Chartres Cathedral
Much has been written about the supposed “magical” and “alchemical” power of Chartres cathedral to bless, purify, and transform its visitors; it almost seems as if the monument contains some sort of strange, powerful energy:
“Chartres seems to pose as many riddles as the Sphinx.”
The magic starts upon your first approach to Chartres; the first thing you see is its overpowering size and girth, in comparison to the surrounding wheat fields. The impact is indescribable.
“From a distance it [Chartres] seems to hover in mid-air above waving fields of wheat, and it is only when the visitor draws closer that the city comes into view, clustering around the hill on which the cathedral stands.”
As you come closer, you start to see the massive building stones Chartres was built with:
“The enormous size of the blocks of stone will strike the attention of the most casual visitor, but others will note the union of massive simplicity with perfect grace…the finest work of the kind in France.”
—J. L. J. Masse
The lack of steel tools and modern engineering would seem to make raising enormous stone blocks difficult if not impossible. However, it’s not only the size of the stones but also their complex shapes and the way in which they fit together perfectly with little or no mortar that defies explanation:
“The stonecutters, masons and sculptors of the Gothic age redefined what could be done with stone. Some of the blocks at Chartres are on such an awesome scale that it makes your legs tremble just to look at them… the blocks comprising the great arches of the vaulting often have highly complex shapes that have been made with stunning precision….”
—Philip Ball, Universe of Stone: A Biography of Chartres Cathedral
It’s typical to see phrases like “awesome scale” and “stunning precision” when reading about the pyramids of Egypt. But a (comparatively) modern building like Chartres?
History informs us that the builders of Chartres had suddenly and mysteriously made rapid and unprecedented breakthroughs in technology, allowing them to reach heights then unheard of in Europe. These technologies include:
- POINTED ARCH (1st great innovation)
- FLYING BUTTRESS (2nd great innovation)
- RIBBED VAULT (3rd great innovation)
What’s going on here?space
Taller Than Liberty
Upon approaching the Western facade, the first aspect of the monument that makes itself known is how tall the twin towers actually are. The right tower is 349 feet tall, and the left is 377, making them taller even than the Statue of Liberty, from the ground to the top of the statue’s torch!
Left: Chartres Cathedral, France. Right: Statue of Liberty, NYC.
Visitors to Chartres often remark that it seems to be communicating some sort of message, a feeling that is not surprising at all: in medieval construction, buildings were very often designed to communicate esoteric wisdom and ideas:
“…the history of architecture is the history of writing. Before the printing press, mankind communicated through architecture. From Stonehenge to the Parthenon…Rows of stones were sentences…while Greek columns were “hieroglyphs” pregnant with meaning.”
—Rob Zaretsky, Victor Hugo and Architecture
If Chartres is indeed a message in stone, then what is it saying?space
Twin Towers “Sun” & “Moon”
Let us begin deciphering the message with the Twin Towers, those mysterious towers that many cathedrals seem to share:
Above: The so-called “Notre Dame cathedrals” were all built
during the same medieval era (c. 1200). All depict the
Twin Towers in the same position.
Both of Chartres towers are capped by iron emblems; the north tower has a sun and the south tower has a moon:
Above: The Twin Towers at Chartres are called the “Sun and Moon towers.”
These symbols are the first sign of the Pagan heresy encoded into Chartres, a direct reference to the ancient Pagan “doctrine of opposites”: an idea that everything in the universe is composed of diametrically opposed twin powers:
“Erected by the masons…the west front of each church had two towers representing the twin columns…the masculine and feminine aspects, the active and passive forces…Called, in Chartres Cathedral, the sun and moon towers…”
—Warren Kenton, Introduction to the Cabala
“These giant towers, indeed, and their aerial pinnacles are not twin sisters, but rather, it might seem, sister and elder brother, with their points of resemblance and their points of difference.”
—Cecil Headlam, The Story of Chatres
These towers in fact parallel a pair of “Twin Pillars” highly revered by the Freemasons, the organization credited with the planning and construction of the Gothic cathedrals.
The Twin Pillars, visible below on the important Masonic document called a “Tracing Board,” are named “Jachin” and “Boaz”—Jachin being the right-hand tower (crowned with the sun) and Boaz being the left-hand tower (crowned with the moon).
Above: The Twin Towers at Chartres, capped by the sun and the moon, match perfectly the Twin Pillars on the Masonic Tracing Board, which are also capped by sun and moon.
Crowned by the Sun and the Moon the Twin Towers on the cathedral, like the Twin Pillars on the Tracing Board, signify the pagan “pairs of opposites” doctrine:
- The SUN means DAY. The MOON means NIGHT.
- In the DAY it’s HOT. In the NIGHT it’s COLD.
- The DAY brings LIGHT. The NIGHT brings DARK.
- The DAY is DRY. The NIGHT is WET.
- And so on, down the line.
These naturally occurring pairs of opposites form the “lost key” to all the Mystery schools in history (Perennial Philosophy, Hermetic Teachings, Philosopher’s Stone, Alchemy, and so on.) The doctrine of opposites teaches us that we live in a world of both light and darkness, right and wrong, good and evil.
Freemason Manly Hall (1901 – 1990) explained:
“Jachin, the white pillar of light…Boaz, the shadowy pillar of darkness…These two pillars respectively connote also the active and the passive…the sun and the moon…good and bad, light and darkness.”
—Manly Hall, The Secret Teachings of All Ages
In the early 20th century, genius architect Claude Bragdon wrote:
“…man, like the sun, is lord of day; he is like fire, a devastating force; woman is subject to the lunar rhythm; like water, she is soft, sinuous, fecund…The Masonic guilds of the Middle Ages were custodians of the esoteric… The north or right-hand tower (“the man’s side”) was called the sacred male pillar, Jachin; and the south, or left-hand tower (“the woman’s side”), the sacred female pillar, Boaz…”
—Claude Bragdon, The Beautiful Necessity
The existence of a male and female pillar on Chartres and the other High Gothic cathedrals reveals that the Freemasons believed in this Pagan doctrine of duality. This duality has since ancient times been symbolized by the number TWO.
Just as man is not apart from the universe, but lives inside it, the human body was also believed by the ancients to be dual, with the right-side half being “solar” and the left-side half being “lunar”:
Above: The ancients believed man’s physical body mimics the duality of the universe in which man lives. Learn more here.
The Kabbalah and Gnosticism teach that by balancing or “reconciling” these opposing forces in our bodies, one can “awaken”; feminine energy can and must be used as the activator of the masculine. When there is polarity there is tension, and it is said that within this tension a miraculous transformation within ourselves occurs, like the change a caterpillar makes when turning into a butterfly.
“…only in and by the reconciliation of opposing forces is the Pathway made to the true occult knowledge and practical power…”
—Temple of the Golden Dawn Initiation Ceremony
When we balance out the twin opposing forces (male / female, etc.) within our minds and bodies—which “balance” is symbolized by the number THREE—an alchemical reaction activates or awakens a mystical Third Eye latent within us.
“…in every man there is an Eye of the Soul which…is far more precious than ten thousand bodily eyes, for by it alone is truth seen.”
—Plato, The Republic
Once awakened, this Third Eye ventures inward. During this introspection, a powerful transformation takes place. One discovers or “sees,” using this Third Eye, a conscious “deity” held captive within, an eternal deity that is one’s Self. This deity, that we term the “soul,” is in fact a god who has fallen from a higher spiritual realm and now finds himself far from home.
“A man is a god in ruins.”
—Ralph Waldo Emerson
The seeker discovers he is this god, and to his dread learns that, due to his fallen state, this god is now encased in an animal’s body that mimics the duality of the universe. By balancing the opposites, however, he can open his Mind’s Eye; in doing so he learns that he can perceive, and then act from, his true higher Self or soul at the center of his dual physical nature.
“…Join the male and the female and you will find what you are seeking…”
—Aphorisms of Zosimus
“He who aspires to be master of his fate and captain of his soul must walk upon these opposites in the sense of transcending and dominating them, of trampling upon his lower sensual nature and keeping it beneath his feet in subjection and control.
His object is the development of his innate spiritual potencies….”
The lighting of a bulb by tying a metal rod to both ends of a battery is a wonderful metaphor for the Third Eye; in Hinduism, for example, the concept of the Third Eye is achievable through Kundalini Yoga and meditation on key energy points in the human body. Note the Third Eye “dot” on the forehead:
Left: Great Buddha Kamakura, Japan, with Third Eye “dot” on forehead. Right: Kundalini Yoga, which involves activating the Ida and Pingala Channels, male and female in union, to awaken the Third Eye.
Kundalini is an ancient Sanskrit term denoting “illumination” or “enlightenment” one experiences during the discovery of the soul, and Kundalini Yoga is dedicated to the practice of opening the ajna chakra, or Third Eye.
Although virtually unknown in the West, Kundalini is said to be responsible for man’s spiritual and religious awakenings throughout history and in all parts of the world. In the days of old it constituted part of “the work” of Secret Societies, like Masonry.
“…the All-seeing eye…This is the eye of freemasonry, the third eye. While I am credibly formed that few Masons understand their own symbols, the fact remains that they use them…”
—Dr. George Washington Carey, The Wonders of the Human Body
Above: Masonic Twin Pillars (sun and moon) in balance, causing the awakening of the Third Eye, depicted single and in the center.
The Third Eye, according to this doctrine, is no longer in full working order in daily life. Awakening the Third Eye requires understanding the pairs of opposites and finding one’s center between them. This is heretical in a Western context; it is a “union with God” and was punishable by death for longer than a thousand years in Europe.
Similar ideas of harmonizing, uniting, reconciling and balancing opposites exist in all cultures, and these ideas are always associated with a single Third Eye:
Third Eye drawings throughout history, in different parts of the world. From left to right: Mexico sculpture; Egyptian eye of Ra; 16th century steel helmet with mask from Iran; stone drawing on wall at Teotihuacán, Mexico.
“Unfortunately our Western mind, lacking all culture in this respect, has never yet devised a concept, nor even a name, for the union of opposites through the middle path, that most fundamental item of inward experience…
…It is at once the most individual fact and the most universal, the most legitimate fulfillment of the meaning of the individual’s life.”
Masonic apron with emblem depicting Third Eye balancing over opposing sun and moon symbols.
Returning to Chartres, we note that between the male and female pillars we find a magnificent and very meaningful piece of architecture: a giant Rose Window, which we shall see symbolizes none other than a giant Eye.space
All Gothic cathedrals have rose windows, which find their origin in the Roman oculus. Oculus, the Latin word for eye, is still used to refer to other round windows, openings, and skylights in other edifices.
The truly astounding part of this, however, is how similar the Gothic Rose Window is to the single Eyeball. The central pupil, iris, the rings, etc. and so forth are strikingly parallel: the rose window is in and of itself a symbol for the eye.
“It is when the sun, already sinking in the west, looks the cathedral almost full in the face. Its rays, becoming more and more horizontal…while the great central rose window glares like the eye of a Cyclops…”
This rose window sits perfectly in the center between the twin towers, or the pairs of opposites, just as your soul sits perfectly in the center between the twin sides of your dual body (your right or “sun” half and left or “moon” half): this immediately recalls the metaphor of the Third Eye described above, inside the duality of male and female. Prince Charles, speaking of Chartres’ design, describes it thusly:
“The entrance into the building is through the West front, which comprises two soaring towers, one with the symbol of the Moon upon it and one, a significant number of feet taller, bearing the symbol of the Sun… And beneath them sits one of the most spectacular of all rose windows, symbolizing the uniting of the apparent duality represented by the symbols of the Sun and the Moon. This unifying process is even built into the way the pilgrim was expected to journey around the cathedral.”
—Prince Charles, Harmony: A New Way of Looking at Our World.
The concept of the union of opposites and the number three is also prevalent in small architectural details:
Left: Trefoil in Gothic architecture. Right: Long predating the Gothic cathedrals, an Ancient Priest-king from Mohenjodaro wears trefoil and a circular amulet on his forehead depicting the Third Eye.
In architecture, a trefoil is an ornamental foliation consisting of three divisions, used in Gothic architecture to represent the form of a three-lobed leaf.
Returning to the Rose Window, we can see that no matter how simple or flamboyant the window, it is always depicted as circular. The circle is a perfect form, and is thus a symbol of eternity as well as a symbol of the eternal “soul within” or “god within” each of us.
Yet another way to look at the rose window is as a Buddhist symbol, similar to the Eastern “Wheel of Dharma” or “Wheel of Law,” a symbol denoting the Buddhist path to enlightenment.
Associated with this concept is the medieval idea of the Wheel of Fortune, or Rota Fortunae, which refers to the capricious nature of Fate. The goddess Fortuna spins the wheel at random, changing the positions of those on the wheel; some suffer while others gain, and Fortuna is always a woman, sometimes blindfolded, spinning the wheel.
Fortuna sits at the center of her Wheel, observing the rotation of four figures on its rim: above her, below her, to her left and to her right.
Countless writers have also described the entire Rose Window concept as a sacred mandala, leading one to their very center of all Being, which is their own inner being; the center of their own eternal, Inner Self. The word mandala means “circle.” Following Jung, they affirm the rose window represents the “expression of human aspiration towards wholeness and coherence.” Mandalas have existed in Eastern religion and philosophy for centuries:
Left: Tibetan Buddhist thangka painting, a mandala. Right: The Rose Window at Chartres.
In eastern philosophy, there are different paths to reach the divine, represented by gates at the cardinal points of the mandala. The goal, the quest, is to attain the center.
If you let your eyes glide along the tracery of the rose window at Chartres, while you slowly take in the geometric patterns, you can slowly awaken to a very calm or meditative Self. It’s almost like prayer, but to your own center.
It is possible that awareness of this ancient yet highly sophisticated occult wisdom enabled the builders of Chartres to carve and create the cathedral with an almost superhuman skill and ability, the same that raised the pyramids, Baalbek, and Stonehenge; it stands to reason, then, that Chartres itself would be encoded and embedded with this wisdom, an esoteric gift from the Masons to the Western world.space
Left: Mandala. Middle: Labyrinth at Chartres. Right: Labyrinth at Chartres.
The Rose Window on the outside of Chartres is connected with another mysterious phenomenon inside the cathedral—the labyrinth. Constructed in the second decade of the 13th century, the labyrinth is 12.9 (12.3) meters in diameter and fills the width of the nave.
Much has been written about the purpose of this labyrinth, but little contemporary documentation survives. The labyrinth symbolizes the long tortuous path of life, and the goal to find the spiritual soul or “center” (the Self) within the lower material body (the self); the center is the peace, whereas the outer circle represents the ups and downs of fortune. The labyrinth also depicts the reincarnating soul on the road to nirvana (the center).
Interestingly, the Ra symbol of Egypt and Freemasonry, the circumpunct, can be seen as a labyrinth. It stands for the you, the human; you must reach the center, where the rose is, to find your inner, eternal Self. The center is the dot in the center of the circle, the real higher Self inside the false, material body or lower self. The outer circle represents that body, enclosing the divine soul and separating it from the outside.
Above: Egypt’s aten hieroglyph as compared to the Labyrinth at Chartres. The labyrinth can be looked upon as the “key” or guide that teaches us how to read the “Ra” hieroglyph. Follow the path to find your Rose at your center, and live from that source.
Of course, the Aten of Ra and the Eye of Ra were interchangeable in Egypt; the Eye of Ra was the Third Eye and Aten of Ra was the Inner Soul. The same is true of the rose window at Chartres. It stands not only for the single Third Eye between opposites, but also the soul within the body that one sees when one awakens one’s Third Eye:
Above Left: Eye of Ra. Above Right: Aten of Ra. Egyptologists are of the mistaken opinion that these represent the sun in the sky. In fact, the Eye of Ra is your Third Eye, and the Aten of Ra is your soul within” which your Third Eye “sees” when activated.
In all labyrinths, the entrance and the exit are one. This of course brings us back to the unity of opposites; the entrance and exit are where the lower and higher selves meet.
The clergy destroyed these fascinating and sacred labyrinths because they were fearful of this ancient Pagan wisdom. As self-empowering wisdom, it was a threat to their hegemony; they reveal paths to power that any human being can follow without the aid of a priest. Fearing this loss of control, the Church began a systematic destruction of the labyrinths and all of these pagan symbols.
Take a closer look in the center of the labyrinth at Chartres. There sits a rose with six petals. What’s more, this rose seems to be at the center of the circle, where the horizontal and vertical axes formed by the labyrinth meet. Interestingly, the Rosicrucians, a Secret Society like the Freemasons who built Chartres, had as their central symbol a rose at the center of the Cross, just like this one:
Left: Labyrinth at Chartres. Notice the “rose” in the center of the cross, an elaborate pattern built with geometric precision by master architects.
Now notice how the Rose at the center of the labyrinth at Chartres forms a Hexagram (a right-side-up triangle combined with an upside-down triangle) a symbol for the balance of opposites.
It is thus easy to see how affixing a rose upon the crossing can come to mean a resolution of conflict, a union of opposites. This is the secret formula of THREE which leads to an awakening of the Third Eye. With time, the rose in the center, or “us”, grows more beautiful; it becomes wiser and stronger. This is the significance of the rose cross of the Rosicrucians, and both the Confraternity of the Rose Cross and the Order of the Milita Crucifera Evangelic (CR+C and OMCE, respectively).
Interestingly, the Chartres labyrinth is situated at the Western end of the nave and has the same dimensions as the rose window, which is the same height on the facade as the labyrinth is away from the West wall. If you folded the cathedral onto itself spatially, the rose window depicting Our Lady would line up and cover the maze. They both have the same purpose: to call us to the center of our own being. Watch the following brief video where the brilliant professor Keith Critchlow, co-founder of the Temenos Society, explains more:
This is quite eye-opening: it explains that the rose window and the labyrinth actually stand for the same thing. They stand for a Mandala, the sign of Ra, and symbolized a message to find the inner, eternal Self within.
From Left to Right: Mandala, Circumpunct, Labyrinth, Labyrinth, Rose Window. Walking among the turnings, one loses track of direction and of the outside world, and thus quiets the mind.
Each of the images is an image of the human; the Circle is the wheel of fortune, sometimes up and sometimes down, but the center is the real and eternal You; the higher Self. Attaining the center is the goal of the Mandala, and aten, and circumpunct: the goal of the labyrinth, the key that solves the riddle of the Eye of Ra. It is a symbolic pilgrimage; people walk the path ascending toward salvation or enlightenment. The labyrinth at Chartres is not a maze. Mazes are places where one gets lost; labyrinths are places where people are found.
Labyrinths and Mazes are of pagan origin. Labyrinths and Mazes have a history that can be traced back over 4000 years. The earliest examples, found carved on rocks, all have the same design—the classical labyrinth symbol:
Prehistoric labyrinth petroglyph, Pansaimol, Goa, Indiaspace
This evidence, then, points strongly to Chartres cathedral being much more than a regular Catholic edifice. It is instead an exceptional marvel of high initiation, encoded with symbols that teach knowing candidates with the play of natural forces; it is a building that has embedded within it an ancient wisdom that predates Christianity, and endures as a crucible for the spiritual transformation of those who choose to look.
Countless mysteries still abound. Among the most pressing, perhaps, is why don’t modern scholars of the West acknowledge the role of the operative Freemasons here? Indeed this subject seems completely glossed over. Buildings of such complexity and elegance are rare even in modern times, and we would be hard pressed even now to find architects with the architectural skill and craftsmanship to create such amazing, detailed monuments.
Yet it seems clear that the Freemasons fit the bill as creators of the Gothic cathedrals. Look at the photo below. On the left, a group of magical builders. On the right, a group of magical buildings:
SUPERHUMAN MONUMENTS, CREATED BY SUPERHUMAN BEINGS
On the left, a group of magical builders. On the right, a group of magical buildings.
The designers and builders of Chartres did not design it with a wholly Christian idea in mind: instead they built Chartres to be a sacred shrine to their Masonic wisdom, imbuing it with the secret symbols and messages necessary to push visitors up onto heightened states of consciousness and awareness. Chartres is a sanctuary of alchemical transformation, an initiation machine fueled by a Pagan wisdom and guided by revolutionary engineering; the builders of Chartres forever changed how the world looks at art, but also may have changed how it looks at itself as well.
What seems apparent here as well is that the Masonic builders were experiencing a near-superhuman breakthrough of some kind, an achievement of wisdom and knowledge that enabled them to build a cathedral previously unknown to the world. They found their heaven inside themselves, their inner Self, and they used this knowledge to express what they discovered in the very stones of Chartres.
The breakthroughs they had made, spiritually, reflected in their architecture, their design, the breakthroughs, masonry, sculpture, and overall craftsmanship. They were extra-ordinary humans who, in turn, created extraordinary monuments; their spiritual breakthroughs and triumphs are directly reflected by their architectural breakthroughs and triumphs.
What you have read here is merely the tip of the iceberg. In Written In Stone, you can find more evidence that the great Gothic Cathedrals were Hermetic libraries in stone which encoded the Alchemical doctrine of the soul into the fabric of the monument, written into the art and architecture for all to read.
Richard Cassaro’s new book, The Missing Link, explores the meaning, transformations and propagation of the ancient world’s most important religious icon. His first book, Written in Stone, is a wide-ranging exploration of hitherto-unknown connections among Freemasons, medieval cathedral builders and the creators of important ancient monuments, in support of his theory that a spiritually advanced mother culture, lost to history, is behind many of the world’s architectural and artistic traditions.
Prior to the publication of Written in Stone, Cassaro enjoyed a successful career as a U.S. correspondent, professional journalist, and photo researcher for Rizzoli Publications, one of the world’s leading media organizations. Cassaro, who is a graduate of Pace University in New York City, has examined first-hand the ancient ruins and mystical traditions of Egypt, Mexico, Greece, Italy, Sicily, France, England, India, Peru and Spain; he has lectured on his theories to great acclaim in the United States, Egypt, Italy, Spain and Peru.
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