Review of Lomas' Turning the Hiram Key

Turning the Hiram Key


Title: Review of "Turning the Hiram Key - Rituals of Freemasonry Revealed", by Robert Lomas. This book is the first of a "trilogy", the other two being "Turning the Solomon Key" and "Turning the Templar Key" both also by Robert Lomas

Author: Robert Lomas - English Freemason, University Lecturer, Electrical Engineer and Physicist who has written (with Christopher Knight in the past) many books on the origins, history and meaning of Freemasonry and has lectured widely in the UK and USA on Freemasonry.


Summary: A few years ago Bro.Lomas had a close encounter with a lightning strike which gave him an extraordinary almost paranormal experience. This experience seemed to him to be similar to, though more intense than, the enjoyment and satisfaction he got from Freemasonry. He began to explore what it was about Freemasonry which gave him this feeling of enjoyment and satisfaction. He found the human brain is "wired" to need and enjoy ritual of all kinds. He finds that Masonic ritual has this beneficial affect but without the dogma and restrictions in belief attached to the ritual of formal religion.


Lomas explores the way Masonic ritual has this effect, how it works for the human brain and how to enhance the experience. Finally, he relates (controversially?) this to the founding of Freemasonry in the 15th Century by Sir William Sinclair and to the oldest, known Masonic document, the Kirkwall Scroll.



Lomas experienced “cosmic consciousness” (CC) induced by a nearby lightning strike – giving him a sense of ecstatic insight (described elsewhere as, for an instant, a sense of knowing all) and oneness with the universe followed by a sense of peace & wellbeing – reminiscent of, though much more intense than, the feeling Lomas experienced during and after participation in Masonic ceremonies.

First Part.                                                                                                                               

First third of book details his experience of Initiation, Passing and Raising in a Yorkshire Lodge. Had a lot of questions but was continually told – wait for the next step/degree and it will become clearer. Not so – so did his own research.
This part also has a detailed description and text of much of his Yorkshire mother lodge's ritual for the three craft degrees.

After 15 y. had better understanding of origins of FM but still wanted to understand why he enjoyed it so much.

“Real secrets of FM is that the 3rd degree leaves you free of the dread of death and this freedom from fear of the future leaves you free and unfettered to fully use your talents to build a structure in your works which will survive your physical death.

Welcome to the study of your spiritual centre – yourself”

Note this reference to fear of death and to the centre both important in understanding Lomas’s analysis of FM and the rest of book.

Second Part:

Titled: Hidden Mysteries of Ritual and Myth


Therefore Lomas poses and attempts to answer the following questions:

1.                   What is ritual with particular reference to FM

2.                   How does it affect us – again particular ref to FM

3.                   What is an experience of CC or GE and why does it occur?

4.                   How does our brain experience a CC – limbic system

5.                   How does Masonic ritual & FM enable us to have such physical, psychological  & spiritual benefits?


 1. What is Ritual ?


1.         an established or prescribed procedure for a religious or other rite.


2.         a system or collection of religious or other rites.


3.         observance of set forms in public worship.


4.         a book of rites or ceremonies.


5.         a book containing the offices to be used by priests in administering the sacraments and for visitation of the sick, burial of the dead, etc.


6.         a prescribed or established rite, ceremony, proceeding, or service:


7.         prescribed, established, or ceremonial acts or features collectively, as in religious services.


8.         any practice or pattern of behavior regularly performed in a set manner.


9.         a prescribed code of behavior regulating social conduct, as that exemplified by the raising of one's hat or the shaking of hands in greeting.



. a specific act, as hand-washing, performed repetitively to a pathological degree, occurring as a common symptom of obsessive-compulsive neurosis.


[Origin: 1560–70; < L rītuālis, equiv. to rītu-, s. of rītus  + -ālis 1 ]


Some Common Forms of Ritual:

Prayer- chanting- singing

Religious services

Masonic Ritual


Physical exertion

Rhythmic dancing – whirling Dervishes

Theatre – Japanese Noh, western Opera etc.


Types of Ritual:

1.         Rhythmic & repetitious actions

2.         Combination of repetitive behaviour with exaggerated gesture

3.         Story-telling & combination of 1. &  2. above with story telling

4.         Use of symbolism


2. How does ritual affect us?


What does Ritual do – What are the benefits thereform?

Newberg & D’Aquili – brain researchers showed Ritual can

1.  -> neurological effects -  tranquility, ecstasy and awe

2. -> enhanced mental state - like spiritual transcendence – feeling of calmness & wellbeing.

3. -> physical benefits

            Reduced BP

            Reduced heart rate

            Reduced respiration

            Reduced cortisone

            Enhanced immune response

Other Effects/Properties of Ritual:

1. Provides a sense of specialness

2. Have personal consequences e.g. religious ritual – confirmation, mass; Masonic initiation – before Mr  after Bro.

3. Spiritual dimension – invokes belief in GAOTU “at centre of universe/cosmos” – rituals help us relate to this centre.

4. Reinforce group cohesion – team work? And mark boundaries between members and non-members e.g. FM and cowans and intruders



1. Rhythmic & repetitious actions including dancing and singing -> above effects plus intensely pleasurable feelings.


2. Combination of repetitive behaviour with exaggerated gesture -> affect brain activity  (amygdale) leading mild feelings of fear or awe.

e.g FM – grand or royal sign, degree signs etc


Repetitive rituals – OCD-like – research show OCD originates in part of brain combining planning and emotion – this shows another aspect of ritual’s effect but consistent with fact that people don’t understand how ritual affects them.



3.   Story-telling Combined with 1. &  2. above

This combination can lead to –> conceptual/ problem solving combined with physical and emotional effects

Which provide:        

 -          Powerful means of imparting information

-           Engagement of people emotionally and intellectually – i.e. causes people to become “involved”

-           All of which may lead to transcendental effects – spiritual trancendance


a.)     Story-telling: Humans are story-telling beings –

    Epic of Gilgamesh

    Greek myths

    Egyptian Book of Dead and stories of Osiris , Isis and Horus – original widow’s son

    Aboriginal dreamtime legends among the most ancient

    Shererazade – 1001 Arabian Nights – by weaving magic of story S saved herself.


One of aims of myths/storytelling – to help cope with fear/realization  of our own death (the penalty of consciousness according to experts) -  a big feature of Masonic ritual.

Fear of Death – existentialist angst – mythical stories help us cope with this fear.

Story-telling creates social and religious systems – e.g. legend of HA

b.)    Memes:

Richard Dawkins – inventor of concept of Memes - cultural equivalent of genes. Pascal Boyer suggests a meme is model to describe cultural transmission of ideas etc.

Examples – fashion, fads, pop music, catch-phrases, innovations & technology – e.g. stone age tools, theories, practices, habits, songs, dances and moods, internet fads: e.g. you-tube, conspiracy websites/theories, Freemasonry.

Memes transmitted by imitation – ritual is a form of imitation therefore FM transmits memes.

FM doesn’t have to be “sensible” to succeed it just has to appeal to our basic beliefs and cultural instincts.


c.)     Myths

Function and purpose of myth – common to all societies – e.g. Aboriginal dreamtime myths.

1. To analyse important questions  - e.g. origin of mankind

2. Pose problem as conflicting opposites – good & evil:

3. Reconcile opposites by action of spiritual powers – so problem/question no longer our worry

e.g. Origin of Man – 22nd Degree Rose Croix Scottish Rite – G takes counsel with angels - Justice, Truth & Mercy about whether or not to create man  – J and T say no for various reasons, but M says yes, so Mankind is/are the children of mercy. Or in the 28th Degree – Q.: What happens after death – A:  Death is only a change.


Our minds hard-wired i.e. inbuilt tendency – to myth making – Myth leads to ritual which is the acting out of such stories.


Man isn’t the only animal with rituals – various mating rituals of mammals, birds etc. – provide an evolutionary advantage.


4.   Use of Symbolism – How does this work?


1,   Symbols can express more than mere words (particularly in illiterate societies as in early FM)

2.   Certain symbols seem to resonate – common to many cultures and ages

2.   Maths is a symbolic language – Einstein called it a spiritual tool – but a language only understood by adepts – like a priesthood?

3.   Extremely ancient:

Earliest symbol dating back 70k yr (in Sth Africa -  carved into piece of ochre rock) – lozenge – see illustration – also according to expert (Gimbutas) other ancient symbols are bands, triangles, squares and circles.

Lozenge most ancient known – also found in Masonic ritual:- Yorkshire ritual – enlozenged pavement and enlozenged border of TB which in our ritual is indented and tessellated border. Also, in RA regalia, the sash or ribbon has colours in enlozenged form – called irradiated in Qld RA ritual, but still in lozenges.


Extraordinary fact about the lozenge form; the Lozenge according to Lomas (see also Uriel’s Machine) is a symbol which can indicate geographical location – see chart.

The lozenge formed to indicate the location of Jerusalem has the angle of 60º at each top apex angle – i.e. it represents a double isosceles triangle – a sacred symbol; that to indicate location of Rosslyn Chapel forms a square lozenge.

Can gestures and postures enhance ritual effects?

Yes  - physical posture e.g. such as regular “degree” steps can enhance ritual

Alexander technique – correct/improved posture has beneficial mental and physical effects – supports this hypothesis.


Methods providing Evidence for Physical/Psychological Effects of Ritual:

1.                   GSR – galvanic skin response – lie detector type

2.                   EEG  - brain waves – α,β,δ, & θ waves

3.                   Brain Scans (single photon emission computed tomography or SPECT)


Boyer – Human minds not vulnerable to any kind of supernatural belief – only those which activate inference systems for agency, predation, death, morality and social exchange


Freemasonry (FM) meets the above criteria.


3. What is a GE or an experience of CC?

     What is the CC or GE in terms of Our Ritual Brain?

Lomas poses the question: Is there a science of transcendental consciousness in the rituals and symbols of FM – leading to CC or a GE?

Is FM a science of the spirit.


Wilmshurst thought so – The mason learns that a transcendental condition of consciousness is within you….he learns this as a science.


Einstein believed in a “Cosmic Religious Feeling” which is a 3rd stage of religious experience which has no definite notion of God and no theology.


The science of and studies in Neorotheology suggest “For a widespread belief in God to be so widespread there must be an objective explanation”


Scientist Michael Persinger did analysis of how human brain can create a belief in God:

God Experience – subject feels united with all space/time – God, Allah, Cosmic Cconsciousness. – a common experience among Humans – why?


Frontal lobes -> perception of time – past, present, future – also a realization of our own death – which could be incapacitating.


Antidote to this – GE – one reason for success of our species.

                        GEs occur rarely – but triggered at times of:

                            Personal crisis  )

                            Drug use           ) -> sudden & total change in attitude

                            Repetitive ritual )


Persinger found factors increasing chance of GE:

1.                   low blood sugar

2.                   fatigue

3.                   low O2

4.                   anxiety

5.                   temporal lobe instability caused by epilepsy -> temporal lobe transient in limbic system


Persinger concluded GE has survival value


But, can have adverse affects:-

a.                  Assumption of total righteousness – adopted by religious extremists of all types

b.                  Egotism & arrogance

c.                   Belief one’s experience is unique, more real and truer than that of others.


Newberg & D’Aquili did brain scans of meditating Buddhists and praying nuns – one Buddhist monk who entered the samhadi state – i.e. CC or GE – showed certain part of brain Orientation AA


Brain has 4 Parts to Comprehend the World

1.                   Visual Association Area -> pattern recognition, -> images in meditation or prayer

2.                   Orientation Association Area -> self-awareness, self boundaries, loss input -> mystical CC or GE

3.                   Attention Association Area – part of prefrontal cortex -> decision making, seat of will, emotion

4.                   Verbal/Conceptual Association Area -> abstract thoughts, verbal communication, causal thinking – myth creation & expression in ritual


Persinger, Ramachandran, Newberg & D’Aquili agree limbic system source of mystical/spiritual experience.


4.         How does our brain experience a CC – limbic system


Part of Brain Involved: Limbic System - The limbic system is a term for a set of brain structures including the hippocampus and amygdala and anterior thalamic nuclei and a limbic cortex that support a variety of functions including emotion, behavior and long term memory. The structures of the brain described by the limbic system are closely associated with the olfactory structures.

 The term "limbic" comes from Latin limbus, meaning "border" or "edge".

Limbic system: -> evolutionary advantages

1.                   Aggression – feeding, territory )

2.                   Fear – survival                         ) – not under conscious control

3.                   Emotion – sex, love, nurture    )

4.                   Spiritual?


Has 4 main modes –

1.                   Hyper quiescence

2.                   Hyper arousal

3.                   Hyperquiescence with arousal breakthrough

4.                   Hyperarousal with quiescence

Human evolution has developed an excitatory mode  (2.) - mode of heightened consciousness – to avoid predation – flight or fight response.

And a calming mode (1.) to balance the flight/fight response and to help in nurture – reproduction, childrearing etc.

These modes interact in complex way depending upon need – balance is needed for survival – runaway effect of either type would be counterproductive.

Lomas gives a mathematical/graphical analysis of the interaction of these two different modes giving a model of how a CE occurs in the brain – quite complex.

Another example of this type of system is sexual orgasm – he suggests that the psychological and mental effects are similar to CE – uses the same sort of pathways in brain.



One Model of  Limbic System CC: - Limbic System Epilepsy:

(Note a “model” in science is where an understood or known system which is similar to but different from the system under investigation is used to give clues about the functioning of the system under investigation)

Epilepsy of motor system – physical seizures

Epilepsy of limbic system -  emotional seizures such as ecstacy, deep spiritual experiences such as a CC, as well as rage, terror or despair.


V.S.Ramachandran – GSR studies showed:- for limbic (i.e. non-seizure) epileptics who looked at religious images & words - gave amplified responses.

Lomas did similar study with his own students -  of 12 symbols – 6 contemporary, 6 ancient – statistical analysis of his results showed the most attractive were 3 which contained the lozenge and the spiral.


Raising questions:

1.         Are our brains “hard-wired” for certain shapes?

2.         Is there an evolutionary payoff for this?

3.         Does this explain peculiar appeal of Masonic symbols?  Known that symbols are processed by limbic and have a subconscious impact.


5.         How does Masonic ritual & FM enable us to have such physical, psychological  & spiritual benefits?


Third Part  The Meaning of Masonry – The Mystical Mason


This section is very abstract and also very subjective – whereas in second part Lomas tries to find scientific basis and evidence for the CC effect, this section provides little scientific evidence for man of the claims made.

Walter Wilmshurst – The Mystical Mason and the Mystical Path to the Centre

 - The Meaning of Masonry by W.L.Wilmshurst.


This section is based on the works of Walter Lewis Wilmshurst (WLW):

The reviewer contacted Lomas and in response to various questions he said:

"I have been greatly influenced by Wilmshurst, as I joined the lodge he founded and set out to study his ideas".

Lomas himself kept returning in WLW's book and to the belief that FM contains secret knowledge.


Here are some of Wilmshurst’s ideas:


There are philosophic secrets concealed in the Masonic system

FM is a science of self-awareness and expanded consciousness

FM is an expression of ancient doctrine by minds more deeply instructed in the old traditions and secret science than any today.

FM is an experiment upon the mind – promoting the science of human regeneration…. but depends upon the gift of supernal light.

WLM’s private notes:

To pass from mere manhood and carnal understanding to conscious godhead whilst still in the flesh – our unity with the ultimate.

The purpose and goal of initiation and the fundamental hypothesis and philosophical secret of M is that God and the human soul are one.


Is WLW a Neoplatonist? – I put this to Lomas who replied:-


"I agree that WLW has been inspired by Neoplatonic concepts and has used
them to develop a particular version of his Masonic truth. I also agree
that I have set out to explain how the science of the human condition
made his insight possible and how Masonic ritual leads to the type of
experience which is set out in Neoplatonic philosophy. But I differ from
WLW in that I am not a Neoplatonist but a physicist. My viewpoint is
founded in The Copenhagen Interpretation of Neils Bohr and its later
development by John Wheeler, who sadly died last month".


Freemasonry may be somewhat neoplatonic as Plotinus – possibly the first neoplatonist said:

“The Absolute has its centre everywhere but its circumference nowhere”


Lomas says: WLW’s ideas of FM relate to CC or the GE and attaining it without a thunderstorm but by Masonic ritual


WLW also said:

FM is not non-religious but suprasectarian – directed with secrets and mysteries of being not dealt with by popular religion.

It is ontological and philosophical but not theological. (Ontology is the study of the nature of being or existence. Basic question – what exists?)


To reach CC the spirit moves through 4 parts of the circle (second degree square) searching for the great light to be found at the centre, the point from which no mason can err.

The Craft is a discipline of practical spiritual learning leading to the transcendental centre of our mind.



WLW: FM is not a monastic order but has 3 guidelines to arrive at the centre:

1.                   Obedience to moral law

2.                   Daily progress in Masonic science – study, meditation and reflection depending upon - personal taste/temperament  -  maybe should be after point 3  inasmuch is persistent application of

3.                   FM uses the symbolism of working tools and TBs for daily contemplation and reflection.


The practice & attainment of CC

Chemical neurotransmitters involved – oxytocin, vasopressin, adrenalin balancing each other etc


Their effects are characteristic of Chaotic systems


Chaotic systems characteristically show sudden even catastrophic changes in state – e.g. from fear, depression into ecstasy or emotional high/euphoria.


Lomas gives a mathematical graphical analysis of such as system as might apply to CC or GE.

What he’s saying is that attaining CC is difficult because the conscious mind is attempting to use a subconscious or autonomous system to achieve a state of mind – namely CC which requires us consciously to unify both electrical and chemical systems into perfect balance and then to hold that state – obviously difficult and requiring a lot of practice.


WLW suggests his ideas about mystical state of oneness with creation at the centre of Masonry is really ancient.


Kirkwall Scroll

Is there any evidence for this?

 Lomas says that Kirkwall Scroll may be such evidence – carbon 14 dating says made about 1400-1520 although a later border was apparently added in 18th century.

 Gives details of chequered history of the scroll which we needn’t bother with.


The Scroll has a lot of esoteric Masonic symbolism indicating an early origin of mystical ideas.

Rosslyn Chapel has Masonic symbolism and was built by Sir William Sinclair Lomas’ candidate for the founder of Freemasonry according to Lomas.

Lomas suggests that the earliest known documented Masonic lodge was Aberdeen Lodge which was already a mix of operative and speculative in 1536 and which was the source of The Kirkwall Scroll - This is consistent with C14 dating.

Thus a very ancient origin of mystical ideas of Freemasonry linking back to Sinclair and his family history and tradition.

Supposedly, the twin pillared temple to Freyja – the Nordic Venus -  found at Sinclair’s ancestral home in Trondheim is such.

There is, allegedly, a depiction of the 5 points of fellowship in this temple.

The Lomas website on the Kirkwall Scroll says:

The symols up the centre strip seem to show the means of progression of the initiate from the degree of entered apprentice through to the rank of Sovereign Grand Inspector General. The scroll as it is presently displayed could be used a tracing board for the degrees Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite by simply unrolling the relevent section for each degree.

Many of inscriptions on the scroll are written in a Masonic code, which used form part of the secrets of the thirteenth degree of Master of the Ninth Arch, or The Royal Arch of Enoch. This Masonic Cypher is known as the Enochian Alphabet. On the second tabloid upwards, an altar is shown standing on a black and white pavement. On the pavement lies the triangular apron of a Deputy Grand Master of the Lodge of Perfection. The part of the inscription on the Altar reads:

I AM hath sent me unto you. I AM THAT I AM.
I am the Rose of Sharon and the Lily of the Valley.
I AM that I AM or I WILL BE that I WILL BE.

This is a clear reference to the 18th degree of the A&A Rite known as the Knight of the Rose Croix.
Two tabloids higher there is a diagram of the Lodge layout for the reception of a Grand Inspector Inquisitor General, modeled on the description of Solomon's temple found in the bible.

Books by Robert Lomas:

The Invisible College

Freemasonry and the Birth of Modern Science

The Man Who Invented the Twentieth Century

The Hiram Key

The Second Messiah

Uriel's Machine

The Book of Hiram

Mysteries of the Ancient World

The Holy Grail

Forecasting for Sales and Materials Management

Turning the Hiram Key

Turning the Solomon Key