Quite a list of questions!
A couple of general points to begin with. First, some symbols are almost universal. The disembodied eye, for instance, has been a symbol for a watching deity for millennia in a number of cultures. The snake eating its tail was independently taken as a symbol for eternity by the Celts, the Chinese and the Greeks. So that a symbol or item is seen in more than one place does not automatically link the two places. And, as Freud so rightly noted, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar – some things have no esoteric meaning.
Secondly, Freemasonry is not a massive, singular body. While observing certain basic things, each jurisdiction is independent and free to make minor changes. What is a symbol in one place may not be in another.
Thirdly, there are, strictly speaking, just three degrees in Freemasonry. Off to one side, there are appendent and concordant bodies such as the Scottish Rite, the Shriners and so forth. While all members in such are Masons (or in some related to Masons), these bodies have no control or influence over Craft or Blue Masonry (that including those three degrees). It’s an easy mistake to think that, because a concordant body has 32 degrees, that it is somehow superior to or in charge. And each of these bodies is free to develop and utilize its own symbols and rituals.
1. What do the two sphinx at the house of the temple represent? - where could I read about this?
There are some places which have them, but they are not a core symbol for Freemasonry, generally regarded as more of a decoration than something with deep meaning. Moreover, such representations are of comparatively recent usage.
2. What does an arch represent? - where could I read about them?
There is no particular meaning that I am aware of in Craft Freemasonry, but it’s possible that it is involved in the Scottish or York Rite degrees. The arch of heaven is mentioned in the Bible, so an arch could be taken by some as a symbol for heaven.
3. What does an obelisk represent - where could I read about them?
4. What can be found in masonic grand lodge libraries? could I find information to do with the physical architecture of masonry, such as how it was built along with what it represents? how much information is stored in them? is there anything kept away?
These vary in size from a small room to major facilities, so there is no given answer to your question. The books and documents held by them centre on Masonry, of course. There would be a lot of Masonic history, biographies of famous Masons, collections of essays and so forth. There would certainly be works on symbolism. I think you would have to ask a given library about access. I know mine is open to the public, but only by appointment as there is not a full-time staff. It is possible that some things would be kept locked up, but it would be a surprising small slice. Virtually everything about us is open literature.
5. As an entered apprentice freemason do I get full access to the library and can masons usually borrow books from the library?
I would say Yes, but that would again depend on the policies of the individual jurisdiction and facility.
6. For someone that is highly serious about masonry I find it is hard to learn about masonry when you don’t truly know exactly what it is, how can I learn about masonry? should I start by learning the ranks and degrees? should I start at the beginning of their history or of the fraternity today?
I would start with a general overview and concentrate on more current authors as there was a great deal of ‘creative’ writing about our history, some by quite important people. We did not begin with Noah, for instance…
You can discount anything claiming we hate any given religion, that we worship Lucifer or that we are part of a vast conspiracy ruling the world. Such things are just foolish and call into question either the integrity or the scholarship of the writer. I would also strongly recommend staying away from a book called Morals and Dogma, often claimed to be central to Masonry. First off, it isn’t in any way official and secondly it is very advanced reading, terminally dull and virtually incomprehensible to 99.9% of readers.
Actually, if you are planning to visit a grand lodge library, they would be a good place to start your researches. Their staff would be able to show you some good books on their shelves.
All that said, the only way to really learn about Masonry is by being a Mason. So much of what we do, so much of our ceremonies make little sense without context. We could publish everything, every last one of the few real secrets we have, and people reading it would not understand Freemasonry any better. Without the context of participating in the fraternity, it would seem utterly superficial.
7. Why does a sphinx wear a Nemses, does this head wear have anything to do with masonry? - this peculiar question is of all my most desired.
If you mean the ‘nemes’, that’s the striped headcloth which was worn by pharaohs of ancient Egypt. Whatever or whoever the Sphinx was intended to represent, it would clearly have been done by one pharaoh or another and I wouldn’t try to read much more into it than that. Statues of British kings generally feature crowns, if you see what I mean.
8. What is the symbolic meaning behind humans combined with various animals as singular creatures?
No idea what you mean.
9. Lastly I am putting forth something truly not of my character at all, how can I optimize my actions and time to progress in masonry? is there any rules as to how fast one can go through the degrees? what could I do with all my effort to help myself progress?
There are rules about how fast one can progress, but they are hardly burdensome. Beyond that, I am uncertain what you mean. Be yourself - but be the best, the most moral ‘self’ you can be.