Masonic Tracing Boards

by Lady Frieda Harris

These three (3) high quality prints (13 3/4 inches wide x 19 1/2 inches tall) which were made in 1976 from the original hand painted tracing boards of the Entered Apprentice, FellowCraft and Master Mason degrees. The originals were painted c.1938 by Lady Frieda Harris for the Co-Masons, a Masonic rite of which she was an active member.  Founded at the end of the 19th Century her Order is still active today.  It may be noticed that the sword is very prominent in the Entered Apprentice board.  A sword, aside form being used by the tyler to protect the lodge, is also used to direct energy from the Infinite, through the Master Mason, to the candidate. The Fellow Craft board was painted upon polar graph paper, as might be used by astronomers, the guide lines being left to show through to suggest the canopy of heaven.  Lady Frieda Harris was being taught projective geometry by members of Rudolf Steiner's Anthroposophical Society and the those principles find expression in her designs for the three tracing boards. Classical Euclidian geometry assumes parallel lines never meet. As artists first explored perspective, projective geometry developed utilizing the apparent disappearing point on an infinitely distant horizon. Projective geometry flowered in the 19th Century, and its relationship with the infinite aroused the interest of spiritually awakened thinkers like Goethe, then Rudolf Steiner and so his British followers who taught Lady Harris. She may have felt that she was utilizing a new system of geometry to reformulate the tradition tracing board designs in a manner that was suitable for a new stage in human consciousness. In the English speaking world co-masonry came to be headed by Theosophists like Annie Besant and Charles Leadbeater whose world view was one of continually progressing human consciousness. In esoteric matters, Lady Harris accepted as her teacher another who saw himself as the prophet of new Aeon in the religious development of humanity. However both both Rudolf Steiner's anthroposophists and the co-masonic theosophists strongly disapproved of this teacher, the notorious Aleister Crowley. However there is good reason to surmise that these tracing boards are entirely the work of Frieda Harris alone, and that Crowley had no part in their design. She did reinterpret the traditional tarot pack designs under his direction, also utilizing projective geometry, creating the Crowley Thoth Tarot. This is one of the most popular tarot packs nowadays, but was largely unknown until the 1970s. The 1960s counter culture found in Crowley something of a hero. His tarot pack was then published for the first time and through that people discovered the artwork of Frieda Harris. It was in this context that in 1976 the owner of her tracing boards arranged for them to be professionally photographed and 500 reproductions made to the exact same size as the originals using the offset litho printing process. This was done to the very best standards producing high quality reproductions  on thick art paper that will be very color fast. The set being raffled here has been stored all this time and not handled in any way. There is some very minor discoloration to the edge of the discoloration to the edge of the paper but this is very unobtrusive and would not be seen at all if framed. They have never been displayed and there are no pin holes or glue marks to the back.

Click on the images below to see enlarged photographs.


The First Degree Tracing Board

The Second Degree Tracing Board

The Third Degree Tracing Board

This board suggest the influence of Projective Geometry. Below one of the first diagrams from a book written by Olive Whicher, who taught Frieda. It shows how Projective Geometry can be used to generate a matrix of rhomboids on a plane:

Lines drawn from the left and right points on the horizon create the sides of the rhomboids, or tiles in the Tracing Board. The wonder is that their diagonals (shown with dotted lines) all point to the same circled point on the horizon, exactly midway between the generating points. But this is not what Frieda draws. She distorts the matrix of tiles so that if one imagines the diagonals they cross at various points up the central ladder, signaling the ladder transcends the plane - which, of course, is its purpose. Planes in fact, as signaled by similar lines coming from the top corners.




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