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The Mosaic Paving Stone

A symbolic interpretation of the mosaic paving stone as a figuration initiatory path

Historical origins of mosaic paving

The paving mosaic has very ancient origins; a Roman mosaic at least six metres long was found in Berkshire, a county in the south of England. Decorated with mythical characters, it is said to be more than 1,600 years old.

It is understandable that this was a specialty of the stonemasons (the famous freestone-masons).

The pavements generally represented allegories, floral motifs and also geometric figures (see below a photo of the floor of Canterbury Cathedral in England dating from the Middle Ages).

The Middle Ages also saw the use of black and white checkerboard paving. Michel Pastoureau, in his book "Une histoire symbolique du Moyen Âge occidental" explains that its use generally refers to the idea of movement, dynamism or rite of passage.

Pompeii - approx. 200 BC.

Many authors have contributed their interpretations; the mosaic paving stone is often experienced as a sacred space situated between the three pillars or as the representation of the binary dualism proper to the 1st degree; there may be another way of understanding it.

Mosaic paving stone, Nadir and Zenith are part of the symbolic illustrations of the biblical content added over time by various exegetes!

Even if it is not mentioned in the Bible, the mosaic paving stone 'is first of all a symbol of Christian inspiration which refers to a representation of the world in the form of a plan; human life unfolds in two dimensions with four cardinal points while the domain of the supernatural occupies two spaces, the sky and the darkness!

In this representation, Christian thought imagined an initiatory path oriented from West to East: the objective of every Christian who wants to follow the teaching of Christian initiation is to walk towards the Light, that is to say towards the East! On the contrary, the popular expression "to be in the West" (derived from "to go west") shows that it is a question of "madness", even death!

The representation of the black and white checkerboard represents this particular space, transitional but also protected because under divine influence for the initiate; if in the Bible the color black symbolizes the negative aspect of the human experience and the color white the divine inspiration, to walk towards the East by borrowing this long mosaic paving stone supposes that the essential is not yet done; arrived at the East, it will still be necessary to carry out the ascent by the steps of the spiral staircase or the rungs of the ladder to hope to be able to reach the divine approach!

This is how, naturally, the mosaic paving stone became the pavement of the initiatory path that leads to the light.  In the Masonic temple, it constitutes the last section that will allow the initiate to begin his ascent to Heaven by accessing the Debir or Naos, considered as the antechamber of the hoped-for destination of the initiatory process.

This symbolic interpretation is consistent with the conception of a flat earth that was the one prevailing before the Galilean discovery! It is a further proof that many Masonic symbols can only be understood if they are linked to their Christian origins, even if one then makes digressions of meaning as one pleases.

This symbolic content of the mosaic pavement also explains that in English-speaking Masonic temples the ground between the two columns from west to east is entirely covered with the "mosaic pavement" and that it is an aberration to make a mock altar by limiting it between the three pillars and forbidding to tread on it: if we must use this symbol, we must walk on the mosaic pavement because it is the path of the initiate!

The ability of human beings to make their imaginations work explains why different interpretations borrowed from other traditions have flourished.

This interpretation also shows that we have not yet been able to make a critical reading of certain symbols. In some minds, they are even used to justify the creationist temptation that still inspires certain Masonic currents, particularly American ones, by questioning the theory of evolution. Let us recall that Masonic dating is another example!

Masonic Temple, Andaz London Liverpool Street

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