The Symbolism of
Its Science and Philosophy, its Legends,
Myths and Symbols.
"Ea enim quae scribuntur tria habere decent, utilitatem praesentem,
certum finem, inexpugnabile fundamentum - Cardanus.
Entered, according to Act of
Congress, in the year 1869, by
ALBERT G. MACKEY,
In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the District of South
To General John C. Fremont.
My Dear Sir:
While any American might be
proud of associating his name with that of one who has done so much to
increase the renown of his country, and to enlarge the sum of human
knowledge, this book is dedicated to you as a slight testimonial of regard
for your personal character, and in grateful recollection of acts of
Yours very truly,
A. G. Mackey.
Of the various modes of
communicating instruction to the uninformed, the masonic student is
particularly interested in two; namely, the instruction by legends and that
by symbols. It is to these two, almost exclusively, that he is indebted for
all that he knows, and for all that he can know, of the philosophic system
which is taught in the institution. All its mysteries and its dogmas, which
constitute its philosophy, are intrusted for communication to the neophyte,
sometimes to one, sometimes to the other of these two methods of
instruction, and sometimes to both of them combined. The Freemason has no
way of reaching any of the esoteric teachings of the Order except through
the medium of a legend or a symbol.
A legend differs from an
historical narrative only in this—that it is without documentary evidence of
authenticity. It is the offspring solely of tradition. Its details may be
true in part or in whole. There may be no internal evidence to the contrary,
or there may be internal evidence that they are altogether false. But
neither the possibility of truth in the one case, nor the certainty of
falsehood in the other, can remove the traditional narrative from the class
of legends. It is a legend simply because it rests on no written foundation.
It is oral, and therefore legendary.
In grave problems of history,
such as the establishment of empires, the discovery and settlement of
countries, or the rise and fall of dynasties, the knowledge of the truth or
falsity of the legendary narrative will be of importance, because the value
of history is impaired by the imputation of doubt. But it is not so in
Freemasonry. Here there need be no absolute question of the truth or falsity
of the legend. The object of the masonic legends is not to establish
historical facts, but to convey philosophical doctrines. They are a method
by which esoteric instruction is communicated, and the student accepts them
with reference to nothing else except their positive use and meaning as
developing masonic dogmas. Take, for instance, the Hiramic legend of the
third degree. Of what importance is it to the disciple of Masonry whether it
be true or false? All that he wants to know is its internal signification;
and when he learns that it is intended to illustrate the doctrine of the
immortality of the soul, he is content with that interpretation, and he does
not deem it necessary, except as a matter of curious or antiquarian inquiry,
to investigate its historical accuracy, or to reconcile any of its apparent
contradictions. So of the lost keystone; so of the second temple; so of the
hidden ark: these are to him legendary narratives, which, like the casket,
would be of no value were it not for the precious jewel contained within.
Each of these legends is the expression of a philosophical idea.
But there is another method
of masonic instruction, and that is by symbols. No science is more ancient
than that of symbolism. At one time, nearly all the learning of the world
was conveyed in symbols. And although modern philosophy now deals only in
abstract propositions, Freemasonry still cleaves to the ancient method, and
has preserved it in its primitive importance as a means of communicating
According to the derivation
of the word from the Greek, "to symbolize" signifies "to compare one thing
with another." Hence a symbol is the expression of an idea that has been
derived from the comparison or contrast of some object with a moral
conception or attribute. Thus we say that the plumb is a symbol of rectitude
of conduct. The physical qualities of the plumb are here compared or
contrasted with the moral conception of virtue, or rectitude. Then to the
Speculative Mason it becomes, after he has been taught its symbolic meaning,
the visible expression of the idea of moral uprightness.
But although there are these
two modes of instruction in Freemasonry,—by legends and by symbols,—there
really is no radical difference between the two methods. The symbol is a
visible, and the legend an audible representation of some contrasted idea—of
some moral conception produced from a comparison. Both the legend and the
symbol relate to dogmas of a deep religious character; both of them convey
moral sentiments in the same peculiar method, and both of them are designed
by this method to illustrate the philosophy of Speculative Masonry.
To investigate the recondite
meaning of these legends and symbols, and to elicit from them the moral and
philosophical lessons which they were intended to teach, is to withdraw the
veil with which ignorance and indifference seek to conceal the true
philosophy of Freemasonry.
To study the symbolism of
Masonry is the only way to investigate its philosophy. This is the portal of
its temple, through which alone we can gain access to the sacellum where its
aporrheta are concealed.
Its philosophy is engaged in
the consideration of propositions relating to God and man, to the present
and the future life. Its science is the symbolism by which these
propositions are presented to the mind.
The work now offered to the
public is an effort to develop and explain this philosophy and science. It
will show that there are in Freemasonry the germs of profound speculation.
If it does not interest the learned, it may instruct the ignorant. If so, I
shall not regret the labor and research that have been bestowed upon its
S.C., Feb. 22, 1869.
Primitive Freemasonry of Antiquity.
Spurious Freemasonry of Antiquity.
Union of Speculative and Operative Masonry at the Temple of Solomon.
Travelling Freemasons of the Middle Ages.
Disseverance of the Operative Element.
of Symbolic Instruction.
Speculative Science and the Operative Art.
Symbolism of Solomon's Temple.
The Form of
Officers of a Lodge.
within a Circle.
Covering of the Lodge.
The Rite of
The Rite of
Symbolism of the Gloves.
The Rite of
The Rite of
Intrusting, and the Symbolism of Light.
of the Corner-stone.
of the Winding Stairs.
of the Third Degree.
Symbolism of Labor.
Stone of Foundation.
The Origin and Progress of Freemasonry.
Any inquiry into the
symbolism and philosophy of Freemasonry must necessarily be preceded by a
brief investigation of the origin and history of the institution. Ancient
and universal as it is, whence did it arise? What were the accidents
connected with its birth? From what kindred or similar association did it
spring? Or was it original and autochthonic, independent, in its inception,
of any external influences, and unconnected with any other institution?
These are questions which an intelligent investigator will be disposed to
propound in the very commencement of the inquiry; and they are questions
which must be distinctly answered before he can be expected to comprehend
its true character as a symbolic institution. He must know something of its
antecedents, before he can appreciate its character.
But he who expects to arrive
at a satisfactory solution of this inquiry must first—as a preliminary
absolutely necessary to success—release himself from the influence of an
error into which novices in Masonic philosophy are too apt to fall. He must
not confound the doctrine of Freemasonry with its outward and extrinsic
form. He must not suppose that certain usages and ceremonies, which exist at
this day, but which, even now, are subject to extensive variations in
different countries, constitute the sum and substance of Freemasonry.
"Prudent antiquity," says Lord Coke, "did for more solemnity and better
memory and observation of that which is to be done, express substances under
ceremonies." But it must be always remembered that the ceremony is not the
substance. It is but the outer garment which covers and perhaps adorns it,
as clothing does the human figure. But divest man of that outward apparel,
and you still have the microcosm, the wondrous creation, with all his
nerves, and bones, and muscles, and, above all, with his brain, and
thoughts, and feelings. And so take from Masonry these external ceremonies,
and you still have remaining its philosophy and science. These have, of
course, always continued the same, while the ceremonies have varied in
different ages, and still vary in different countries.
The definition of Freemasonry
that it is "a science of morality, veiled in allegory, and illustrated by
symbols," has been so often quoted, that, were it not for its beauty, it
would become wearisome. But this definition contains the exact principle
that has just been enunciated. Freemasonry is a science—a philosophy—a
system of doctrines which is taught, in a manner peculiar to itself, by
allegories and symbols. This is its internal character. Its ceremonies are
external additions, which affect not its substance.
Now, when we are about to
institute an inquiry into the origin of Freemasonry, it is of this peculiar
system of philosophy that we are to inquire, and not of the ceremonies which
have been foisted on it. If we pursue any other course we shall assuredly
fall into error.
Thus, if we seek the origin
and first beginning of the Masonic philosophy, we must go away back into the
ages of remote antiquity, when we shall find this beginning in the bosom of
kindred associations, where the same philosophy was maintained and taught.
But if we confound the ceremonies of Masonry with the philosophy of Masonry,
and seek the origin of the institution, moulded into outward form as it is
to-day, we can scarcely be required to look farther back than the beginning
of the eighteenth century, and, indeed, not quite so far. For many important
modifications have been made in its rituals since that period.
Having, then, arrived at the
conclusion that it is not the Masonic ritual, but the Masonic philosophy,
whose origin we are to investigate, the next question naturally relates to
the peculiar nature of that philosophy.
Now, then, I contend that the
philosophy of Freemasonry is engaged in the contemplation of the divine and
human character; of GOD as one eternal, self-existent being, in
contradiction to the mythology of the ancient peoples, which was burdened
with a multitude of gods and goddesses, of demigods and heroes; of MAN as an
immortal being, preparing in the present life for an eternal future, in like
contradiction to the ancient philosophy, which circumscribed the existence
of man to the present life.
These two doctrines, then, of
the unity of God and the immortality of the soul, constitute the philosophy
of Freemasonry. When we wish to define it succinctly, we say that it is an
ancient system of philosophy which teaches these two dogmas. And hence, if,
amid the intellectual darkness and debasement of the old polytheistic
religions, we find interspersed here and there, in all ages, certain
institutions or associations which taught these truths, and that, in a
particular way, allegorically and symbolically, then we have a right to say
that such institutions or associations were the incunabula—the
predecessors—of the Masonic institution as it now exists.
With these preliminary
remarks the reader will be enabled to enter upon the consideration of that
theory of the origin of Freemasonry which I advance in the following
1. In the first place, I
contend that in the very earliest ages of the world there were existent
certain truths of vast importance to the welfare and happiness of humanity,
which had been communicated,—no matter how, but,—most probably, by direct
inspiration from God to man.
2. These truths principally
consisted in the abstract propositions of the unity of God and the
immortality of the soul. Of the truth of these two propositions there cannot
be a reasonable doubt. The belief in these truths is a necessary consequence
of that religious sentiment which has always formed an essential feature of
human nature. Man is, emphatically, and in distinction from all other
creatures, a religious animal. Gross commences his interesting work on "The
Heathen Religion in its Popular and Symbolical Development" by the statement
that "one of the most remarkable phenomena of the human race is the
universal existence of religious ideas—a belief in something supernatural
and divine, and a worship corresponding to it." As nature had implanted the
religious sentiment, the same nature must have directed it in a proper
channel. The belief and the worship must at first have been as pure as the
fountain whence they flowed, although, in subsequent times, and before the
advent of Christian light, they may both have been corrupted by the
influence of the priests and the poets over an ignorant and superstitious
people. The first and second propositions of my theory refer only to that
primeval period which was antecedent to these corruptions, of which I shall
3. These truths of God and
immortality were most probably handed down through the line of patriarchs of
the race of Seth, but were, at all events, known to Noah, and were by him
communicated to his immediate descendants.
4. In consequence of this
communication, the true worship of God continued, for some time after the
subsidence of the deluge, to be cultivated by the Noachidae, the Noachites,
or the descendants of Noah.
5. At a subsequent period (no
matter when, but the biblical record places it at the attempted building of
the tower of Babel), there was a secession of a large number of the human
race from the Noachites.
6. These seceders rapidly
lost sight of the divine truths which had been communicated to them from
their common ancestor, and fell into the most grievous theological errors,
corrupting the purity of the worship and the orthodoxy of the religious
faith which they had primarily received.
7. These truths were
preserved in their integrity by but a very few in the patriarchal line,
while still fewer were enabled to retain only dim and glimmering portions of
the true light.
8. The first class was
confined to the direct descendants of Noah, and the second was to be found
among the priests and philosophers, and, perhaps, still later, among the
poets of the heathen nations, and among those whom they initiated into the
secrets of these truths. Of the prevalence of these religious truths among
the patriarchal descendants of Noah, we have ample evidence in the sacred
records. As to their existence among a body of learned heathens, we have the
testimony of many intelligent writers who have devoted their energies to
this subject. Thus the learned Grote, in his "History of Greece," says, "The
allegorical interpretation of the myths has been, by several learned
investigators, especially by Creuzer, connected with the hypothesis of an
ancient and highly instructed body of priests, having their origin
either in Egypt or in the East, and communicating to the rude and barbarous
Greeks religious, physical, and historical knowledge, under the veil of
symbols." What is here said only of the Greeks is equally applicable to
every other intellectual nation of antiquity.
9. The system or doctrine of
the former class has been called by Masonic writers the "Pure or Primitive
Freemasonry" of antiquity, and that of the latter class the "Spurious
Freemasonry" of the same period. These terms were first used, if I mistake
not, by Dr. Oliver, and are intended to refer—the word pure to the
doctrines taught by the descendants of Noah in the Jewish line and the word
spurious to his descendants in the heathen or Gentile line.
10. The masses of the people,
among the Gentiles especially, were totally unacquainted with this divine
truth, which was the foundation stone of both species of Freemasonry, the
pure and the spurious, and were deeply immersed in the errors and falsities
of heathen belief and worship.
11. These errors of the
heathen religions were not the voluntary inventions of the peoples who
cultivated them, but were gradual and almost unavoidable corruptions of the
truths which had been at first taught by Noah; and, indeed, so palpable are
these corruptions, that they can be readily detected and traced to the
original form from which, however much they might vary among different
peoples, they had, at one time or another, deviated. Thus, in the life and
achievements of Bacchus or Dionysus, we find the travestied counterpart of
the career of Moses, and in the name of Vulcan, the blacksmith god, we
evidently see an etymological corruption of the appellation of Tubal Cain,
the first artificer in metals. For Vul-can is but a modified form of
Baal-Cain, the god Cain.
12. But those among the
masses—and there were some—who were made acquainted with the truth, received
their knowledge by means of an initiation into certain sacred Mysteries, in
the bosom of which it was concealed from the public gaze.
13. These Mysteries existed
in every country of heathendom, in each under a different name, and to some
extent under a different form, but always and everywhere with the same
design of inculcating, by allegorical and symbolic teachings, the great
Masonic doctrines of the unity of God and the immortality of the soul. This
is an important proposition, and the fact which it enunciates must never be
lost sight of in any inquiry into the origin of Freemasonry; for the pagan
Mysteries were to the spurious Freemasonry of antiquity precisely what the
Masters' lodges are to the Freemasonry of the present day. It is needless to
offer any proof of their existence, since this is admitted and continually
referred to by all historians, ancient and modern; and to discuss minutely
their character and organization would occupy a distinct treatise. The Baron
de Sainte Croix has written two large volumes on the subject, and yet left
14. These two divisions of
the Masonic Institution which were defined in the 9th proposition, namely,
the pure or primitive Freemasonry among the Jewish descendants of the
patriarchs, who are called, by way of distinction, the Noachites, or
descendants of Noah, because they had not forgotten nor abandoned the
teachings of their great ancestor, and the spurious Freemasonry practised
among the pagan nations, flowed down the stream of time in parallel
currents, often near together, but never commingling.
15. But these two currents
were not always to be kept apart, for, springing, in the long anterior ages,
from one common fountain,—that ancient priesthood of whom I have already
spoken in the 8th proposition,—and then dividing into the pure and spurious
Freemasonry of antiquity, and remaining separated for centuries upon
centuries, they at length met at the building of the great temple of
Jerusalem, and were united, in the instance of the Israelites under King
Solomon, and the Tyrians under Hiram, King of Tyre, and Hiram Abif. The
spurious Freemasonry, it is true, did not then and there cease to exist. On
the contrary, it lasted for centuries subsequent to this period; for it was
not until long after, and in the reign of the Emperor Theodosius, that the
pagan Mysteries were finally and totally abolished. But by the union of the
Jewish or pure Freemasons and the Tyrian or spurious Freemasons at
Jerusalem, there was a mutual infusion of their respective doctrines and
ceremonies, which eventually terminated in the abolition of the two
distinctive systems and the establishment of a new one, that may be
considered as the immediate prototype of the present institution. Hence many
Masonic students, going no farther back in their investigations than the
facts announced in this 15th proposition, are content to find the origin of
Freemasonry at the temple of Solomon. But if my theory be correct, the truth
is, that it there received, not its birth, but only a new modification of
its character. The legend of the third degree—the golden legend, the
legenda aurea—of Masonry was there adopted by pure Freemasonry, which
before had no such legend, from spurious Freemasonry. But the legend had
existed under other names and forms, in all the Mysteries, for ages before.
The doctrine of immortality, which had hitherto been taught by the Noachites
simply as an abstract proposition, was thenceforth to be inculcated by a
symbolic lesson—the symbol of Hiram the Builder was to become forever after
the distinctive feature of Freemasonry.
16. But another important
modification was effected in the Masonic system at the building of the
temple. Previous to the union which then took place, the pure Freemasonry of
the Noachites had always been speculative, but resembled the present
organization in no other way than in the cultivation of the same abstract
principles of divine truth.
17. The Tyrians, on the
contrary, were architects by profession, and, as their leaders were
disciples of the school of the spurious Freemasonry, they, for the first
time, at the temple of Solomon, when they united with their Jewish
contemporaries, infused into the speculative science, which was practised by
the latter, the elements of an operative art.
18. Therefore the system
continued thenceforward, for ages, to present the commingled elements of
operative and speculative Masonry. We see this in the Collegia Fabrorum,
or Colleges of Artificers, first established at Rome by Numa, and which were
certainly of a Masonic form in their organization; in the Jewish sect of the
Essenes, who wrought as well as prayed, and who are claimed to have been the
descendants of the temple builders, and also, and still more prominently, in
the Travelling Freemasons of the middle ages, who identify themselves by
their very name with their modern successors, and whose societies were
composed of learned men who thought and wrote, and of workmen who labored
and built. And so for a long time Freemasonry continued to be both operative
19. But another change was to
be effected in the institution to make it precisely what it now is, and,
therefore, at a very recent period (comparatively speaking), the operative
feature was abandoned, and Freemasonry became wholly speculative. The exact
time of this change is not left to conjecture. It took place in the reign of
Queen Anne, of England, in the beginning of the eighteenth century. Preston
gives us the very words of the decree which established this change, for he
says that at that time it was agreed to "that the privileges of Masonry
should no longer be restricted to operative Masons, but extend to men of
various professions, provided they were regularly approved and initiated
into the order."
The nineteen propositions
here announced contain a brief but succinct view of the progress of
Freemasonry from its origin in the early ages of the world, simply as a
system of religious philosophy, through all the modifications to which it
was submitted in the Jewish and Gentile races, until at length it was
developed in its present perfected form. During all this time it preserved
unchangeably certain features that may hence be considered as its specific
characteristics, by which it has always been distinguished from every other
contemporaneous association, however such association may have simulated it
in outward form. These characteristics are, first, the doctrines which it
has constantly taught, namely, that of the unity of God and that of the
immortality of the soul; and, secondly, the manner in which these doctrines
have been taught, namely, by symbols and allegories.
Taking these characteristics
as the exponents of what Freemasonry is, we cannot help arriving at the
conclusion that the speculative Masonry of the present day exhibits abundant
evidence of the identity of its origin with the spurious Freemasonry of the
ante-Solomonic period, both systems coming from the same pure source, but
the one always preserving, and the other continually corrupting, the purity
of the common fountain. This is also the necessary conclusion as a corollary
from the propositions advanced in this essay.
There is also abundant
evidence in the history, of which these propositions are but a meagre
outline, that a manifest influence was exerted on the pure or primitive
Freemasonry of the Noachites by the Tyrian branch of the spurious system, in
the symbols, myths, and legends which the former received from the latter,
but which it so modified and interpreted as to make them consistent with its
own religious system. One thing, at least, is incapable of refutation; and
that is, that we are indebted to the Tyrian Masons for the introduction of
the symbol of Hiram Abif. The idea of the symbol, although modified by the
Jewish Masons, is not Jewish in its inception. It was evidently borrowed
from the pagan mysteries, where Bacchus, Adonis, Proserpine, and a host of
other apotheosized beings play the same rôle that Hiram does in the Masonic
And lastly, we find in the
technical terms of Masonry, in its working tools, in the names of its
grades, and in a large majority of its symbols, ample testimony of the
strong infusion into its religious philosophy of the elements of an
operative art. And history again explains this fact by referring to the
connection of the institution with the Dionysiac Fraternity of Artificers,
who were engaged in building the temple of Solomon, with the Workmen's
Colleges of Numa, and with the Travelling Freemasons of the middle ages, who
constructed all the great buildings of that period.
These nineteen propositions,
which have been submitted in the present essay, constitute a brief summary
or outline of a theory of the true origin of Freemasonry, which long and
patient investigation has led me to adopt. To attempt to prove the truth of
each of these propositions in its order by logical demonstration, or by
historical evidence, would involve the writing of an elaborate treatise.
They are now offered simply as suggestions on which the Masonic student may
ponder. They are but intended as guide-posts, which may direct him in his
journey should he undertake the pleasant although difficult task of
instituting an inquiry into the origin and progress of Freemasonry from its
birth to its present state of full-grown manhood.
But even in this abridged
form they are absolutely necessary as preliminary to any true understanding
of the symbolism of Freemasonry.
I proceed, then, to inquire
into the historical origin of Freemasonry, as a necessary introduction to
any inquiry into the character of its symbolism. To do this, with any
expectation of rendering justice to the subject, it is evident that I shall
have to take my point of departure at a very remote era. I shall, however,
review the early and antecedent history of the institution with as much
brevity as a distinct understanding of the subject will admit.
Passing over all that is
within the antediluvian history of the world, as something that exerted, so
far as our subject is concerned, no influence on the new world which sprang
forth from the ruins of the old, we find, soon after the cataclysm, the
immediate descendants of Noah in the possession of at least two religious
truths, which they received from their common father, and which he must have
derived from the line of patriarchs who preceded him. These truths were the
doctrine of the existence of a Supreme Intelligence, the Creator, Preserver,
and Ruler of the Universe, and, as a necessary corollary, the belief in the
immortality of the soul1,
which, as an emanation from that primal cause, was to be distinguished, by a
future and eternal life, from the vile and perishable dust which forms its
The assertion that these
doctrines were known to and recognized by Noah will not appear as an
assumption to the believer in divine revelation. But any philosophic mind
must, I conceive, come to the same conclusion, independently of any other
authority than that of reason.
The religious sentiment, so
far, at least, as it relates to the belief in the existence of God, appears
to be in some sense innate, or instinctive, and consequently universal in
the human mind2.
There is no record of any nation, however intellectually and morally
debased, that has not given some evidence of a tendency to such belief. The
sentiment may be perverted, the idea may be grossly corrupted, but it is
nevertheless there, and shows the source whence it sprang3.
Even in the most debased
forms of fetichism, where the negro kneels in reverential awe before the
shrine of some uncouth and misshapen idol, which his own hands, perhaps,
have made, the act of adoration, degrading as the object may be, is
nevertheless an acknowledgment of the longing need of the worshipper to
throw himself upon the support of some unknown power higher than his own
sphere. And this unknown power, be it what it may, is to him a God.4
But just as universal has
been the belief in the immortality of the soul. This arises from the same
longing in man for the infinite; and although, like the former doctrine, it
has been perverted and corrupted, there exists among all nations a tendency
to its acknowledgment. Every people, from the remotest times, have wandered
involuntarily into the ideal of another world, and sought to find a place
for their departed spirits. The deification of the dead, man-worship, or
hero-worship, the next development of the religious idea after fetichism,
was simply an acknowledgment of the belief in a future life; for the dead
could not have been deified unless after death they had continued to live.
The adoration of a putrid carcass would have been a form of fetichism lower
and more degrading than any that has been discovered.
But man-worship came after
fetichism. It was a higher development of the religious sentiment, and
included a possible hope for, if not a positive belief in, a future life.
Reason, then, as well as
revelation, leads us irresistibly to the conclusion that these two doctrines
prevailed among the descendants of Noah, immediately after the deluge. They
were believed, too, in all their purity and integrity, because they were
derived from the highest and purest source.
These are the doctrines which
still constitute the creed of Freemasonry; and hence one of the names
bestowed upon the Freemasons from the earliest times was that of the "Noachidae"
or "Noachites" that is to say, the descendants of Noah, and the
transmitters of his religious dogmas.
The Primitive Freemasonry of Antiquity.
The next important historical
epoch which demands our attention is that connected with what, in sacred
history, is known as the dispersion at Babel. The brightness of truth, as it
had been communicated by Noah, became covered, as it were, with a cloud. The
dogmas of the unity of God and the immortality of the soul were lost sight
of, and the first deviation from the true worship occurred in the
establishment of Sabianism, or the worship of the sun, moon, and stars,
among some peoples, and the deification of men among others. Of these two
deviations, Sabianism, or sun-worship, was both the earlier and the more
"It seems," says the learned Owen, "to have had its rise from some broken
traditions conveyed by the patriarchs touching the dominion of the sun by
day and of the moon by night." The mode in which this old system has been
modified and spiritually symbolized by Freemasonry will be the subject of
But Sabianism, while it was
the most ancient of the religious corruptions, was, I have said, also the
most generally diffused; and hence, even among nations which afterwards
adopted the polytheistic creed of deified men and factitious gods, this
ancient sun-worship is seen to be continually exerting its influences. Thus,
among the Greeks, the most refined people that cultivated hero-worship,
Hercules was the sun, and the mythologic fable of his destroying with his
arrows the many-headed hydra of the Lernaean marshes was but an allegory to
denote the dissipation of paludal malaria by the purifying rays of the orb
of day. Among the Egyptians, too, the chief deity, Osiris, was but another
name for the sun, while his arch-enemy and destroyer, Typhon, was the
typification of night, or darkness. And lastly, among the Hindus, the three
manifestations of their supreme deity, Brahma, Siva, and Vishnu, were
symbols of the rising, meridian, and setting sun.
This early and very general
prevalence of the sentiment of sun-worship is worthy of especial attention
on account of the influence that it exercised over the spurious Freemasonry
of antiquity, of which I am soon to speak, and which is still felt, although
modified and Christianized in our modern system. Many, indeed nearly all, of
the masonic symbols of the present day can only be thoroughly comprehended
and properly appreciated by this reference to sun-worship.
This divine truth, then, of
the existence of one Supreme God, the Grand Architect of the Universe,
symbolized in Freemasonry as the TRUE WORD, was lost to the Sabians and to
the polytheists who arose after the dispersion at Babel, and with it also
disappeared the doctrine of a future life; and hence, in one portion of the
masonic ritual, in allusion to this historic fact, we speak of "the lofty
tower of Babel, where language was confounded and Masonry lost."
There were, however, some of
the builders on the plain of Shinar who preserved these great religious and
masonic doctrines of the unity of God and the immortality of the soul in
their pristine purity. These were the patriarchs, in whose venerable line
they continued to be taught. Hence, years after the dispersion of the
nations at Babel, the world presented two great religious sects, passing
onward down the stream of time, side by side, yet as diverse from each other
as light from darkness, and truth from falsehood.
One of these lines of
religious thought and sentiment was the idolatrous and pagan world. With it
all masonic doctrine, at least in its purity, was extinct, although there
mingled with it, and at times to some extent influenced it, an offshoot from
the other line, to which attention will be soon directed.
The second of these lines
consisted, as has already been said, of the patriarchs and priests, who
preserved in all their purity the two great masonic doctrines of the unity
of God and the immortality of the soul.
This line embraced, then,
what, in the language of recent masonic writers, has been designated as the
Primitive Freemasonry of Antiquity.
Now, it is by no means
intended to advance any such gratuitous and untenable theory as that
proposed by some imaginative writers, that the Freemasonry of the patriarchs
was in its organization, its ritual, or its symbolism, like the system which
now exists. We know not indeed, that it had a ritual, or even a symbolism. I
am inclined to think that it was made up of abstract propositions, derived
from antediluvian traditions. Dr. Oliver thinks it probable that there were
a few symbols among these Primitive and Pure Freemasons, and he enumerates
among them the serpent, the triangle, and the point within a circle; but I
can find no authority for the supposition, nor do I think it fair to claim
for the order more than it is fairly entitled to, nor more than it can be
fairly proved to possess. When Anderson calls Moses a Grand Master, Joshua
his Deputy, and Aholiab and Bezaleel Grand Wardens, the expression is to be
looked upon simply as a façon de parler, a mode of speech entirely
figurative in its character, and by no means intended to convey the idea
which is entertained in respect to officers of that character in the present
system. It would, undoubtedly, however, have been better that such language
should not have been used.
All that can be claimed for
the system of Primitive Freemasonry, as practised by the patriarchs, is,
that it embraced and taught the two great dogmas of Freemasonry, namely, the
unity of God, and the immortality of the soul. It may be, and indeed it is
highly probable, that there was a secret doctrine, and that this doctrine
was not indiscriminately communicated. We know that Moses, who was
necessarily the recipient of the knowledge of his predecessors, did not
publicly teach the doctrine of the immortality of the soul. But there was
among the Jews an oral or secret law which was never committed to writing
until after the captivity; and this law, I suppose, may have contained the
recognition of those dogmas of the Primitive Freemasonry.
Briefly, then, this system of
Primitive Freemasonry,—without ritual or symbolism, that has come down to
us, at least,—consisting solely of traditionary legends, teaching only the
two great truths already alluded to, and being wholly speculative in its
character, without the slightest infusion of an operative element, was
regularly transmitted through the Jewish line of patriarchs, priests, and
kings, without alteration, increase, or diminution, to the time of Solomon,
and the building of the temple at Jerusalem.
Leaving it, then, to pursue
this even course of descent, let us refer once more to that other line of
religious history, the one passing through the idolatrous and polytheistic
nations of antiquity, and trace from it the regular rise and progress of
another division of the masonic institution, which, by way of distinction,
has been called the Spurious Freemasonry of Antiquity.
The Spurious Freemasonry of Antiquity.
In the vast but barren desert
of polytheism—dark and dreary as were its gloomy domains—there were still,
however, to be found some few oases of truth. The philosophers and sages of
antiquity had, in the course of their learned researches, aided by the light
of nature, discovered something of those inestimable truths in relation to
God and a future state which their patriarchal contemporaries had received
as a revelation made to their common ancestry before the flood, and which
had been retained and promulgated after that event by Noah.
They were, with these dim but
still purifying perceptions, unwilling to degrade the majesty of the First
Great Cause by sharing his attributes with a Zeus and a Hera in Greece, a
Jupiter and a Juno in Rome, an Osiris and an Isis in Egypt; and they did not
believe that the thinking, feeling, reasoning soul, the guest and companion
of the body, would, at the hour of that body's dissolution, be consigned,
with it, to total annihilation.
Hence, in the earliest ages
after the era of the dispersion, there were some among the heathen who
believed in the unity of God and the immortality of the soul. But these
doctrines they durst not publicly teach. The minds of the people, grovelling
in superstition, and devoted, as St. Paul testifies of the Athenians, to the
worship of unknown gods, were not prepared for the philosophic teachings of
a pure theology. It was, indeed, an axiom unhesitatingly enunciated and
frequently repeated by their writers, that "there are many truths with which
it is useless for the people to be made acquainted, and many fables which it
is not expedient that they should know to be false."
6 Such is the
language of Varro, as preserved by St. Augustine; and Strabo, another of
their writers, exclaims, "It is not possible for a philosopher to conduct a
multitude of women and ignorant people by a method of reasoning, and thus to
invite them to piety, holiness, and faith; but the philosopher must also
make use of superstition, and not omit the invention of fables and the
performance of wonders." 7
While, therefore, in those
early ages of the world, we find the masses grovelling in the intellectual
debasement of a polytheistic and idolatrous religion, with no support for
the present, no hope for the future,—living without the knowledge of a
supreme and superintending Providence, and dying without the expectation of
a blissful immortality,—we shall at the same time find ample testimony that
these consoling doctrines were secretly believed by the philosophers and
But though believed, they
were not publicly taught. They were heresies which it would have been
impolitic and dangerous to have broached to the public ear; they were truths
which might have led to a contempt of the established system and to the
overthrow of the popular superstition. Socrates, the Athenian sage, is an
illustrious instance of the punishment that was meted out to the bold
innovator who attempted to insult the gods and to poison the minds of youth
with the heresies of a philosophic religion. "They permitted, therefore,"
says a learned writer on this subject8,
"the multitude to remain plunged as they were in the depth of a gross and
complicated idolatry; but for those philosophic few who could bear the light
of truth without being confounded by the blaze, they removed the mysterious
veil, and displayed to them the Deity in the radiant glory of his unity.
From the vulgar eye, however, these doctrines were kept inviolably sacred,
and wrapped in the veil of impenetrable mystery."
The consequence of all this
was, that no one was permitted to be invested with the knowledge of these
sublime truths, until by a course of severe and arduous trials, by a long
and painful initiation, and by a formal series of gradual preparations, he
had proved himself worthy and capable of receiving the full light of wisdom.
For this purpose, therefore, those peculiar religious institutions were
organized which the ancients designated as the MYSTERIES, and which, from
the resemblance of their organization, their objects, and their doctrines,
have by masonic writers been called the "Spurious Freemasonry of Antiquity."
in giving a definition of what these Mysteries were, says, "Each of the
pagan gods had (besides the public and open) a secret worship paid unto him,
to which none were admitted but those who had been selected by preparatory
ceremonies, called initiation. This secret worship was termed the
Mysteries." I shall now endeavor briefly to trace the connection between
these Mysteries and the institution of Freemasonry; and to do so, it will be
necessary to enter upon some details of the constitution of those mystic
Almost every country of the
ancient world had its peculiar Mysteries, dedicated to the occult worship of
some especial and favorite god, and to the inculcation of a secret doctrine,
very different from that which was taught in the public ceremonial of
devotion. Thus in Persia the Mysteries were dedicated to Mithras, or the
Sun; in Egypt, to Isis and Osiris; in Greece, to Demeter; in Samothracia, to
the gods Cabiri, the Mighty Ones; in Syria, to Dionysus; while in the more
northern nations of Europe, such as Gaul and Britain, the initiations were
dedicated to their peculiar deities, and were celebrated under the general
name of the Druidical rites. But no matter where or how instituted, whether
ostensibly in honor of the effeminate Adonis, the favorite of Venus, or of
the implacable Odin, the Scandinavian god of war and carnage; whether
dedicated to Demeter, the type of the earth, or to Mithras, the symbol of
all that fructifies that earth,—the great object and design of the secret
instruction were identical in all places, and the Mysteries constituted a
school of religion in which the errors and absurdities of polytheism were
revealed to the initiated. The candidate was taught that the multitudinous
deities of the popular theology were but hidden symbols of the various
attributes of the supreme god,—a spirit invisible and indivisible,—and that
the soul, as an emanation from his essence, could "never see corruption,"
but must, after the death of the body, be raised to an eternal life.10
That this was the doctrine
and the object of the Mysteries is evident from the concurrent testimony
both of those ancient writers who flourished contemporaneously with the
practice of them, and of those modern scholars who have devoted themselves
to their investigation.
Thus Isocrates, speaking of
them in his Panegyric, says, "Those who have been initiated in the Mysteries
of Ceres entertain better hopes both as to the end of life and the whole of
declares that everything in these Mysteries was instituted by the ancients
for the instruction and amendment of life.
says that the design of initiation was to restore the soul to that state of
perfection from which it had originally fallen.
Thomas Taylor, the celebrated
Platonist, who possessed an unusual acquaintance with the character of these
ancient rites, asserts that they "obscurely intimated, by mystic and
splendid visions, the felicity of the soul, both here and hereafter, when
purified from the defilements of a material nature, and constantly elevated
to the realities of intellectual vision."
a distinguished German writer, who has examined the subject of the ancient
Mysteries with great judgment and elaboration, gives a theory on their
nature and design which is well worth consideration.
This theory is, that when
there had been placed under the eyes of the initiated symbolical
representations of the creation of the universe, and the origin of things,
the migrations and purifications of the soul, the beginning and progress of
civilization and agriculture, there was drawn from these symbols and these
scenes in the Mysteries an instruction destined only for the more perfect,
or the epopts, to whom were communicated the doctrines of the existence of a
single and eternal God, and the destination of the universe and of man.
Creuzer here, however, refers
rather to the general object of the instructions, than to the character of
the rites and ceremonies by which they were impressed upon the mind; for in
the Mysteries, as in Freemasonry, the Hierophant, whom we would now call the
Master of the Lodge, often, as Lobeck observes, delivered a mystical
lecture, or discourse, on some moral subject.
Faber, who, notwithstanding
the predominance in his mind of a theory which referred every rite and
symbol of the ancient world to the traditions of Noah, the ark, and the
deluge, has given a generally correct view of the systems of ancient
religion, describes the initiation into the Mysteries as a scenic
representation of the mythic descent into Hades, or the grave, and the
return from thence to the light of day.
In a few words, then, the
object of instruction in all these Mysteries was the unity of God, and the
intention of the ceremonies of initiation into them was, by a scenic
representation of death, and subsequent restoration to life,16
to impress the great truths of the resurrection of the dead and the
immortality of the soul.
I need scarcely here advert
to the great similarity in design and conformation which existed between
these ancient rites and the third or Master's degree of Masonry. Like it
they were all funereal in their character: they began in sorrow and
lamentation, they ended in joy; there was an aphanism, or burial; a pastos,
or grave; an euresis, or discovery of what had been lost; and a legend, or
mythical relation,—all of which were entirely and profoundly symbolical in
And hence, looking to this
strange identity of design and form, between the initiations of the ancients
and those of the modern Masons, writers have been disposed to designate
these mysteries as the SPURIOUS FREEMASONRY OF ANTIQUITY.
The Ancient Mysteries.
I now propose, for the
purpose of illustrating these views, and of familiarizing the reader with
the coincidences between Freemasonry and the ancient Mysteries, so that he
may be better enabled to appreciate the mutual influences of each on the
other as they are hereafter to be developed, to present a more detailed
relation of one or more of these ancient systems of initiation.
As the first illustration,
let us select the Mysteries of Osiris, as they were practised in Egypt, the
birthplace of all that is wonderful in the arts or sciences, or mysterious
in the religion, of the ancient world.
It was on the Lake of Sais
that the solemn ceremonies of the Osirian initiation were performed. "On
this lake," says Herodotus, "it is that the Egyptians represent by night his
sufferings whose name I refrain from mentioning; and this representation
they call their Mysteries."
Osiris, the husband of Isis,
was an ancient king of the Egyptians. Having been slain by Typhon, his body
was cut into pieces18
by his murderer, and the mangled remains cast upon the waters of the Nile,
to be dispersed to the four winds of heaven. His wife, Isis, mourning for
the death and the mutilation of her husband, for many days searched
diligently with her companions for the portions of the body, and having at
length found them, united them together, and bestowed upon them decent
interment,—while Osiris, thus restored, became the chief deity of his
subjects, and his worship was united with that of Isis, as the fecundating
and fertilizing powers of nature. The candidate in these initiations was
made to pass through a mimic repetition of the conflict and destruction of
Osiris, and his eventual recovery; and the explanations made to him, after
he had received the full share of light to which the painful and solemn
ceremonies through which he had passed had entitled him, constituted the
secret doctrine of which I have already spoken, as the object of all the
Mysteries. Osiris,—a real and personal god to the people,—to be worshipped
with fear and with trembling, and to be propitiated with sacrifices and
burnt offerings, became to the initiate but a symbol of the
"Great first cause, least
while his death, and the
wailing of Isis, with the recovery of the body, his translation to the rank
of a celestial being, and the consequent rejoicing of his spouse, were but a
tropical mode of teaching that after death comes life eternal, and that
though the body be destroyed, the soul shall still live.
"Can we doubt," says the
Baron Sainte Croix, "that such ceremonies as those practised in the
Mysteries of Osiris had been originally instituted to impress more
profoundly on the mind the dogma of future rewards and punishments?"
"The sufferings and death of
Osiris," says Mr. Wilkinson,20
"were the great Mystery of the Egyptian religion; and some traces of it are
perceptible among other people of antiquity. His being the divine goodness
and the abstract idea of 'good,' his manifestation upon earth (like an
Indian god), his death and resurrection, and his office as judge of the dead
in a future state, look like the early revelation of a future manifestation
of the deity converted into a mythological fable."
A similar legend and similar
ceremonies, varied only as to time, and place, and unimportant details, were
to be found in all the initiations of the ancient Mysteries. The dogma was
the same,—future life,—and the method of inculcating it was the same. The
coincidences between the design of these rites and that of Freemasonry,
which must already begin to appear, will enable us to give its full value to
the expression of Hutchinson, when he says that "the Master Mason represents
a man under the Christian doctrine saved from the grave of iniquity and
raised to the faith of salvation."
In Phoenicia similar
Mysteries were celebrated in honor of Adonis, the favorite lover of Venus,
who, having, while hunting, been slain by a wild boar on Mount Lebanon, was
restored to life by Proserpine. The mythological story is familiar to every
classical scholar. In the popular theology, Adonis was the son of Cinyras,
king of Cyrus, whose untimely death was wept by Venus and her attendant
nymphs: in the physical theology of the philosophers,22
he was a symbol of the sun, alternately present to and absent from the
earth; but in the initiation into the Mysteries of his worship, his
resurrection and return from Hades were adopted as a type of the immortality
of the soul. The ceremonies of initiation in the Adonia began with
lamentation for his loss,—or, as the prophet Ezekiel expresses it, "Behold,
there sat women weeping for Thammuz,"—for such was the name under which his
worship was introduced among the Jews; and they ended with the most
extravagant demonstrations of joy at the representation of his return to
the hierophant exclaimed, in a congratulatory strain,—
"Trust, ye initiates; the
god is safe,
And from our grief salvation shall arise."
Before proceeding to an
examination of those Mysteries which are the most closely connected with the
masonic institution, it will be as well to take a brief view of their
The secret worship, or
Mysteries, of the ancients were always divided into the lesser and the
greater; the former being intended only to awaken curiosity, to test the
capacity and disposition of the candidate, and by symbolical purifications
to prepare him for his introduction into the greater Mysteries.
The candidate was at first
called an aspirant, or seeker of the truth, and the initial ceremony which
he underwent was a lustration or purification by water. In this condition he
may be compared to the Entered Apprentice of the masonic rites, and it is
here worth adverting to the fact (which will be hereafter more fully
developed) that all the ceremonies in the first degree of masonry are
symbolic of an internal purification.
In the lesser Mysteries24
the candidate took an oath of secrecy, which was administered to him by the
mystagogue, and then received a preparatory instruction,25
which enabled him afterwards to understand the developments of the higher
and subsequent division. He was now called a Mystes, or initiate, and
may be compared to the Fellow Craft of Freemasonry.
In the greater Mysteries the
whole knowledge of the divine truths, which was the object of initiation,
was communicated. Here we find, among the various ceremonies which
assimilated these rites to Freemasonry, the aphanism, which was the
disappearance or death; the pastos, the couch, coffin, or grave; the
euresis, or the discovery of the body; and the autopsy, or
full sight of everything, that is, the complete communication of the
secrets. The candidate was here called an epopt, or eye-witness,
because nothing was now hidden from him; and hence he may be compared to the
Master Mason, of whom Hutchinson says that "he has discovered the knowledge
of God and his salvation, and been redeemed from the death of sin and the
sepulchre of pollution and unrighteousness."
The Dionysiac Artificers.
After this general view of
the religious Mysteries of the ancient world, let us now proceed to a closer
examination of those which are more intimately connected with the history of
Freemasonry, and whose influence is, to this day, most evidently felt in its
Of all the pagan Mysteries
instituted by the ancients none were more extensively diffused than those of
the Grecian god Dionysus. They were established in Greece, Rome, Syria, and
all Asia Minor. Among the Greeks, and still more among the Romans, the rites
celebrated on the Dionysiac festival were, it must be confessed, of a
dissolute and licentious character.26
But in Asia they assumed a different form. There, as elsewhere, the legend
(for it has already been said that each Mystery had its legend) recounted,
and the ceremonies represented, the murder of Dionysus by the Titans. The
secret doctrine, too, among the Asiatics, was not different from that among
the western nations, but there was something peculiar in the organization of
the system. The Mysteries of Dionysus in Syria, more especially, were not
simply of a theological character. There the disciples joined to the
indulgence in their speculative and secret opinions as to the unity of God
and the immortality of the soul, which were common to all the Mysteries, the
practice of an operative and architectural art, and occupied themselves as
well in the construction of temples and public buildings as in the pursuit
of divine truth.
I can account for the greater
purity of these Syrian rites only by adopting the ingenious theory of
that all the Mysteries "were the remains of a worship which preceded the
rise of the Hellenic mythology, and its attendant rites, grounded on a view
of nature less fanciful, more earnest, and better fitted to awaken both
philosophical thought and religious feeling," and by supposing that the
Asiatics, not being, from their geographical position, so early imbued with
the errors of Hellenism, had been better able to preserve the purity and
philosophy of the old Pelasgic faith, which, itself, was undoubtedly a
direct emanation from the patriarchal religion, or, as it has been called,
the Pure Freemasonry of the antediluvian world.
Be this, however, as it may,
we know that "the Dionysiacs of Asia Minor were undoubtedly an association
of architects and engineers, who had the exclusive privilege of building
temples, stadia, and theatres, under the mysterious tutelage of Bacchus, and
were distinguished from the uninitiated or profane inhabitants by the
science which they possessed, and by many private signs and tokens by which
they recognized each other."
This speculative and
in the esoteric, theologic lessons which were taught in its initiations, and
operative in the labors of its members as architects—was distinguished by
many peculiarities that closely assimilate it to the institution of
Freemasonry. In the practice of charity, the more opulent were bound to
relieve the wants and contribute to the support of the poorer brethren. They
were divided, for the conveniences of labor and the advantages of
government, into smaller bodies, which, like our lodges, were directed by
superintending officers. They employed, in their ceremonial observances,
many of the implements of operative Masonry, and used, like the Masons, a
universal language; and conventional modes of recognition, by which one
brother might know another in the dark as well as the light, and which
served to unite the whole body, wheresoever they might be dispersed, in one
I have said that in the
mysteries of Dionysus the legend recounted the death of that hero-god, and
the subsequent discovery of his body. Some further details of the nature of
the Dionysiac ritual are, therefore, necessary for a thorough appreciation
of the points to which I propose directly to invite attention.
In these mystic rites, the
aspirant was made to represent, symbolically and in a dramatic form, the
events connected with the slaying of the god from whom the Mysteries derived
their name. After a variety of preparatory ceremonies, intended to call
forth all his courage and fortitude, the aphanism or mystical death of
Dionysus was figured out in the ceremonies, and the shrieks and lamentations
of the initiates, with the confinement or burial of the candidate on the
pastos, couch, or coffin, constituted the first part of the ceremony of
initiation. Then began the search of Rhea for the remains of Dionysus, which
was continued amid scenes of the greatest confusion and tumult, until, at
last, the search having been successful, the mourning was turned into joy,
light succeeded to darkness, and the candidate was invested with the
knowledge of the secret doctrine of the Mysteries—the belief in the
existence of one God, and a future state of rewards and punishments.31
Such were the mysteries that
were practised by the architect,—the Freemasons, so to speak—of Asia Minor.
At Tyre, the richest and most important city of that region, a city
memorable for the splendor and magnificence of the buildings with which it
was decorated, there were colonies or lodges of these mystic architects; and
this fact I request that you will bear in mind, as it forms an important
link in the chain that connects the Dionysiacs with the Freemasons.
But to make every link in
this chain of connection complete, it is necessary that the mystic artists
of Tyre should be proved to be at least contemporaneous with the building of
King Solomon's temple; and the evidence of that fact I shall now attempt to
Lawrie, whose elaborate
researches into this subject leave us nothing further to discover, places
the arrival of the Dionysiacs in Asia Minor at the time of the Ionic
migration, when "the inhabitants of Attica, complaining of the narrowness of
their territory and the unfruitfulness of its soil, went in quest of more
extensive and fertile settlements. Being joined by a number of the
inhabitants of surrounding provinces, they sailed to Asia Minor, drove out
the original inhabitants, and seized upon the most eligible situations, and
united them under the name of Ionia, because the greatest number of the
refugees were natives of that Grecian province."
32 With their
knowledge of the arts of sculpture and architecture, in which the Greeks had
already made some progress, the emigrants brought over to their new
settlements their religious customs also, and introduced into Asia the
mysteries of Athene and Dionysus long before they had been corrupted by the
licentiousness of the mother country.
Now, Playfair places the
Ionic migration in the year 1044 B.C., Gillies in 1055, and the Abbé
Barthelemy in 1076. But the latest of these periods will extend as far back
as forty-four years before the commencement of the temple of Solomon at
Jerusalem, and will give ample time for the establishment of the Dionysiac
fraternity at the city of Tyre, and the initiation of "Hiram the Builder"
into its mysteries.
Let us now pursue the chain
of historical events which finally united this purest branch of the Spurious
Freemasonry of the pagan nations with the Primitive Freemasonry of the Jews
When Solomon, king of Israel,
was about to build, in accordance with the purposes of his father, David, "a
house unto the name of Jehovah, his God," he made his intention known to
Hiram, king of Tyre, his friend and ally; and because he was well aware of
the architectural skill of the Tyrian Dionysiacs, he besought that monarch's
assistance to enable him to carry his pious design into execution. Scripture
informs us that Hiram complied with the request of Solomon, and sent him the
necessary workmen to assist him in the glorious undertaking. Among others,
he sent an architect, who is briefly described, in the First Book of Kings,
as "a widow's son, of the tribe of Naphtali, and his father a man of Tyre, a
worker in brass, a man filled with wisdom and understanding and cunning to
work all works in brass;" and more fully, in the Second Book of Chronicles,
as "a cunning man, endued with understanding of Hiram my father's, the son
of a woman of the daughters of Dan, and his father, a man of Tyre, skilful
to work in gold, and in silver, in brass, in iron, in stone, and in timber,
in purple, in blue, and in fine linen and in crimson, also to grave any
manner of graving, and to find out any device which shall be put to him."
To this man—this widow's son
(as Scripture history, as well as masonic tradition informs us)—was
intrusted by King Solomon an important position among the workmen at the
sacred edifice, which was constructed on Mount Moriah. His knowledge and
experience as an artificer, and his eminent skill in every kind of "curious
and cunning workmanship," readily placed him at the head of both the Jewish
and Tyrian craftsmen, as the chief builder and principal conductor of the
works; and it is to him, by means of the large authority which this position
gave him, that we attribute the union of two people, so antagonistical in
race, so dissimilar in manners, and so opposed in religion, as the Jews and
Tyrians, in one common brotherhood, which resulted in the organization of
the institution of Freemasonry. This Hiram, as a Tyrian and an artificer,
must have been connected with the Dionysiac fraternity; nor could he have
been a very humble or inconspicuous member, if we may judge of his rank in
the society, from the amount of talent which he is said to have possessed,
and from the elevated position that he held in the affections, and at the
court, of the king of Tyre. He must, therefore, have been well acquainted
with all the ceremonial usages of the Dionysiac artificers, and must have
enjoyed a long experience of the advantages of the government and discipline
which they practised in the erection of the many sacred edifices in which
they were engaged. A portion of these ceremonial usages and of this
discipline he would naturally be inclined to introduce among the workmen at
Jerusalem. He therefore united them in a society, similar in many respects
to that of the Dionysiac artificers. He inculcated lessons of charity and
brotherly love; he established a ceremony of initiation, to test
experimentally the fortitude and worth of the candidate; adopted modes of
recognition; and impressed the obligations of duty and principles of
morality by means of symbols and allegories.
To the laborers and men of
burden, the Ish Sabal, and to the craftsmen, corresponding with the first
and second degrees of more modern Masonry, but little secret knowledge was
confided. Like the aspirants in the lesser Mysteries of paganism, their
instructions were simply to purify and prepare them for a more solemn
ordeal, and for the knowledge of the sublimest truths. These were to be
found only in the Master's degree, which it was intended should be in
imitation of the greater Mysteries; and in it were to be unfolded,
explained, and enforced the great doctrines of the unity of God and the
immortality of the soul. But here there must have at once arisen an
apparently insurmountable obstacle to the further continuation of the
resemblance of Masonry to the Mysteries of Dionysus. In the pagan Mysteries,
I have already said that these lessons were allegorically taught by means of
a legend. Now, in the Mysteries of Dionysus, the legend was that of the
death and subsequent resuscitation of the god Dionysus. But it would have
been utterly impossible to introduce such a legend as the basis of any
instructions to be communicated to Jewish candidates. Any allusion to the
mythological fables of their Gentile neighbors, any celebration of the myths
of pagan theology, would have been equally offensive to the taste and
repugnant to the religious prejudices of a nation educated, from generation
to generation, in the worship of a divine being jealous of his prerogatives,
and who had made himself known to his people as the JEHOVAH, the God of time
present, past, and future. How this obstacle would have been surmounted by
the Israelitish founder of the order I am unable to say: a substitute would,
no doubt, have been invented, which would have met all the symbolic
requirements of the legend of the Mysteries, or Spurious Freemasonry,
without violating the religious principles of the Primitive Freemasonry of
the Jews; but the necessity for such invention never existed, and before the
completion of the temple a melancholy event is said to have occurred, which
served to cut the Gordian knot, and the death of its chief architect has
supplied Freemasonry with its appropriate legend—a legend which, like the
legends of all the Mysteries, is used to testify our faith in the
resurrection of the body and the immortality of the soul.
Before concluding this part
of the subject, it is proper that something should be said of the
authenticity of the legend of the third degree. Some distinguished Masons
are disposed to give it full credence as an historical fact, while others
look upon it only as a beautiful allegory. So far as the question has any
bearing upon the symbolism of Freemasonry it is not of importance; but those
who contend for its historical character assert that they do so on the
First. Because the character
of the legend is such as to meet all the requirements of the well-known
axiom of Vincentius Lirinensis, as to what we are to believe in traditionary
"Quod semper, quod
ubique, quod ab omnibus traditum est."
That is, we are to believe
whatever tradition has been at all times, in all places, and by all persons
With this rule the legend of
Hiram Abif, they say, agrees in every respect. It has been universally
received, and almost universally credited, among Freemasons from the
earliest times. We have no record of any Masonry having ever existed since
the time of the temple without it; and, indeed, it is so closely interwoven
into the whole system, forming the most essential part of it, and giving it
its most determinative character, that it is evident that the institution
could no more exist without the legend, than the legend could have been
retained without the institution. This, therefore, the advocates of the
historical character of the legend think, gives probability at least to its
Secondly. It is not
contradicted by the scriptural history of the transactions at the temple,
and therefore, in the absence of the only existing written authority on the
subject, we are at liberty to depend on traditional information, provided
the tradition be, as it is contended that in this instance it is,
reasonable, probable, and supported by uninterrupted succession.
Thirdly. It is contended that
the very silence of Scripture in relation to the death of Hiram, the
Builder, is an argument in favor of the mysterious nature of that death. A
man so important in his position as to have been called the favorite of two
kings,—sent by one and received by the other as a gift of surpassing value,
and the donation thought worthy of a special record, would hardly have
passed into oblivion, when his labor was finished, without the memento of a
single line, unless his death had taken place in such a way as to render a
public account of it improper. And this is supposed to have been the fact.
It had become the legend of the new Mysteries, and, like those of the old
ones, was only to be divulged when accompanied with the symbolic
instructions which it was intended to impress upon the minds of the
But if, on the other hand, it
be admitted that the legend of the third degree is a fiction,—that the whole
masonic and extra-scriptural account of Hiram Abif is simply a myth,—it
could not, in the slightest degree, affect the theory which it is my object
to establish. For since, in a mythic relation, as the learned Müller34
has observed, fact and imagination, the real and the ideal, are very closely
united, and since the myth itself always arises, according to the same
author, out of a necessity and unconsciousness on the part of its framers,
and by impulses which act alike on all, we must go back to the Spurious
Freemasonry of the Dionysiacs for the principle which led to the involuntary
formation of this Hiramic myth; and then we arrive at the same result, which
has been already indicated, namely, that the necessity of the religious
sentiment in the Jewish mind, to which the introduction of the legend of
Dionysus would have been abhorrent, led to the substitution for it of that
of Hiram, in which the ideal parts of the narrative have been intimately
blended with real transactions. Thus, that there was such a man as Hiram
Abif; that he was the chief builder at the temple of Jerusalem; that he was
the confidential friend of the kings of Israel and Tyre, which is indicated
by his title of Ab, or father; and that he is not heard of after the
completion of the temple,—are all historical facts. That he died by
violence, and in the way described in the masonic legend, may be also true,
or may be merely mythical elements incorporated into the historical
But whether this be so or
not,—whether the legend be a fact or a fiction, a history or a myth,—this,
at least, is certain: that it was adopted by the Solomonic Masons of the
temple as a substitute for the idolatrous legend of the death of Dionysus
which belonged to the Dionysiac Mysteries of the Tyrian workmen.
The Union of Speculative and Operative Masonry at the Temple of Solomon.
Thus, then, we arrive at
another important epoch in the history of the origin of Freemasonry.
I have shown how the
Primitive Freemasonry, originating in this new world; with Noah, was handed
down to his descendants as a purely speculative institution, embracing
certain traditions of the nature of God and of the soul.
I have shown how, soon after
the deluge, the descendants of Noah separated, one portion, losing their
traditions, and substituting in their place idolatrous and polytheistic
religions, while the other and smaller portion retained and communicated
those original traditions under the name of the Primitive Freemasonry of
I have shown how, among the
polytheistic nations, there were a few persons who still had a dim and
clouded understanding of these traditions, and that they taught them in
certain secret institutions, known as the "Mysteries," thus establishing
another branch of the speculative science which is known under the name of
the Spurious Freemasonry of antiquity.
Again, I have shown how one
sect or division of these Spurious Freemasons existed at Tyre about the time
of the building of King Solomon's temple, and added to their speculative
science, which was much purer than that of their contemporary Gentile
mystics, the practice of the arts of architecture and sculpture, under the
name of the Dionysiac Fraternity of Artificers.
And, lastly, I have shown
how, at the building of the Solomonic temple, on the invitation of the king
of Israel, a large body of these architects repaired from Tyre to Jerusalem,
organized a new institution, or, rather, a modification of the two old ones,
the Primitive Freemasons among the Israelites yielding something, and the
Spurious Freemasons among the Tyrians yielding more; the former purifying
the speculative science, and the latter introducing the operative art,
together with the mystical ceremonies with which they accompanied its
It is at this epoch, then,
that I place the first union of speculative and operative Masonry,—a union
which continued uninterruptedly to exist until a comparatively recent
period, to which I shall have occasion hereafter briefly to advert.
The other branches of the
Spurious Freemasonry were not, however, altogether and at once abolished by
this union, but continued also to exist and teach their half-truthful
dogmas, for ages after, with interrupted success and diminished influence,
until, in the fifth century of the Christian era, the whole of them were
proscribed by the Emperor Theodosius. From time to time, however, other
partial unions took place, as in the instance of Pythagoras, who, originally
a member of the school of Spurious Freemasonry, was, during his visit to
Babylon, about four hundred and fifty years after the union at the temple of
Jerusalem, initiated by the captive Israelites into the rites of Temple
Masonry, whence the instructions of that sage approximate much more nearly
to the principles of Freemasonry, both in spirit and in letter, than those
of any other of the philosophers of antiquity; for which reason he is
familiarly called, in the modern masonic lectures, "an ancient friend and
brother," and an important symbol of the order, the forty-seventh problem of
Euclid, has been consecrated to his memory.
I do not now propose to enter
upon so extensive a task as to trace the history of the institution from the
completion of the first temple to its destruction by Nebuchadnezzar; through
the seventy-two years of Babylonish captivity to the rebuilding of the
second temple by Zerubbabel; thence to the devastation of Jerusalem by
Titus, when it was first introduced into Europe; through all its struggles
in the middle ages, sometimes protected and sometimes persecuted by the
church, sometimes forbidden by the law and oftener encouraged by the
monarch; until, in the beginning of the sixteenth century, it assumed its
present organization. The details would require more time for their
recapitulation than the limits of the present work will permit.
But my object is not so much
to give a connected history of the progress of Freemasonry as to present a
rational view of its origin and an examination of those important
modifications which, from time to time, were impressed upon it by external
influences, so as to enable us the more readily to appreciate the true
character and design of its symbolism.
Two salient points, at least,
in its subsequent history, especially invite attention, because they have an
important bearing on its organization, as a combined speculative and
The Travelling Freemasons of the Middle Ages.
The first of these points to
which I refer is the establishment of a body of architects, widely
disseminated throughout Europe during the middle ages under the avowed name
of Travelling Freemasons. This association of workmen, said to have
been the descendants of the Temple Masons, may be traced by the massive
monuments of their skill at as early a period as the ninth or tenth century;
although, according to the authority of Mr. Hope, who has written
elaborately on the subject, some historians have found the evidence of their
existence in the seventh century, and have traced a peculiar masonic
language in the reigns of Charlemagne of France and Alfred of England.
It is to these men, to their
preeminent skill in architecture, and to their well-organized system as a
class of workmen, that the world is indebted for those magnificent edifices
which sprang up in such undeviating principles of architectural form during
the middle ages.
"Wherever they came," says
Mr. Hope, "in the suite of missionaries, or were called by the natives, or
arrived of their own accord, to seek employment, they appeared headed by a
chief surveyor, who governed the whole troop, and named one man out of every
ten, under the name of warden, to overlook the nine others, set themselves
to building temporary huts35
for their habitation around the spot where the work was to be carried on,
regularly organized their different departments, fell to work, sent for
fresh supplies of their brethren as the object demanded, and, when all was
finished, again raised their encampment, and went elsewhere to undertake
other jobs." 36
This society continued to
preserve the commingled features of operative and speculative masonry, as
they had been practised at the temple of Solomon. Admission to the community
was not restricted to professional artisans, but men of eminence, and
particularly ecclesiastics, were numbered among its members. "These latter,"
says Mr. Hope, "were especially anxious, themselves, to direct the
improvement and erection of their churches and monasteries, and to manage
the expenses of their buildings, and became members of an establishment
which had so high and sacred a destination, was so entirely exempt from all
local, civil jurisdiction, acknowledged the pope alone as its direct chief,
and only worked under his immediate authority; and thence we read of so many
ecclesiastics of the highest rank—abbots, prelates, bishops—conferring
additional weight and respectability on the order of Freemasonry by becoming
its members—themselves giving the designs and superintending the
construction of their churches, and employing the manual labor of their own
monks in the edification of them."
Thus in England, in the tenth
century, the Masons are said to have received the special protection of King
Athelstan; in the eleventh century, Edward the Confessor declared himself
their patron; and in the twelfth, Henry I. gave them his protection.
Into Scotland the Freemasons
penetrated as early as the beginning of the twelfth century, and erected the
Abbey of Kilwinning, which afterwards became the cradle of Scottish Masonry
under the government of King Robert Bruce.
Of the magnificent edifices
which they erected, and of their exalted condition under both ecclesiastical
and lay patronage in other countries, it is not necessary to give a minute
detail. It is sufficient to say that in every part of Europe evidences are
to be found of the existence of Freemasonry, practised by an organized body
of workmen, and with whom men of learning were united; or, in other words,
of a combined operative and speculative institution.
What the nature of this
speculative science continued to be, we may learn from that very curious, if
authentic, document, dated at Cologne, in the year 1535, and hence
designated as the "Charter of Cologne." In that instrument, which purports
to have been issued by the heads of the order in nineteen different and
important cities of Europe, and is addressed to their brethren as a defence
against the calumnies of their enemies, it is announced that the order took
its origin at a time "when a few adepts, distinguished by their life, their
moral doctrine, and their sacred interpretation of the arcanic truths,
withdrew themselves from the multitude in order more effectually to preserve
uncontaminated the moral precepts of that religion which is implanted in the
mind of man."
We thus, then, have before us
an aspect of Freemasonry as it existed in the middle ages, when it presents
itself to our view as both operative and speculative in its character. The
operative element that had been infused into it by the Dionysiac artificers
of Tyre, at the building of the Solomonic temple, was not yet dissevered
from the pure speculative element which had prevailed in it anterior to that
Disseverance of the Operative Element.
The next point to which our
attention is to be directed is when, a few centuries later, the operative
character of the institution began to be less prominent, and the speculative
to assume a pre-eminence which eventually ended in the total separation of
At what precise period the
speculative began to predominate over the operative element of the society,
it is impossible to say. The change was undoubtedly gradual, and is to be
attributed, in all probability, to the increased number of literary and
scientific men who were admitted into the ranks of the fraternity.
The Charter of Cologne, to
which I have just alluded, speaks of "learned and enlightened men" as
constituting the society long before the date of that document, which was
1535; but the authenticity of this work has, it must be confessed, been
impugned, and I will not, therefore, press the argument on its doubtful
authority. But the diary of that celebrated antiquary, Elias Ashmole, which
is admitted to be authentic, describes his admission in the year 1646 into
the order, when there is no doubt that the operative character was fast
giving way to the speculative. Preston tells us that about thirty years
before, when the Earl of Pembroke assumed the Grand Mastership of England,
"many eminent, wealthy, and learned men were admitted."
In the year 1663 an assembly
of the Freemasons of England was held at London, and the Earl of St. Albans
was elected Grand Master. At this assembly certain regulations were adopted,
in which the qualifications prescribed for candidates clearly allude to the
speculative character of the institution.
And, finally, at the
commencement of the eighteenth century, and during the reign of Queen Anne,
who died, it will be remembered, in 1714, a proposition was agreed to by the
society "that the privileges of Masonry should no longer be restricted to
operative masons, but extend to men of various professions, provided that
they were regularly approved and initiated into the order."
Accordingly the records of
the society show that from the year 1717, at least, the era commonly, but
improperly, distinguished as the restoration of Masonry, the operative
element of the institution has been completely discarded, except so far as
its influence is exhibited in the choice and arrangement of symbols, and the
typical use of its technical language.
The history of the origin of
the order is here concluded; and in briefly recapitulating, I may say that
in its first inception, from the time of Noah to the building of the temple
of Solomon, it was entirely speculative in its character; that at the
construction of that edifice, an operative element was infused into it by
the Tyrian builders; that it continued to retain this compound operative and
speculative organization until about the middle of the seventeenth century,
when the latter element began to predominate; and finally, that at the
commencement of the eighteenth century, the operative element wholly
disappeared, and the society has ever since presented itself in the
character of a simply speculative association.
The history that I have thus
briefly sketched, will elicit from every reflecting mind at least two
deductions of some importance to the intelligent Mason.
In the first place, we may
observe, that ascending, as the institution does, away up the stream of
time, almost to the very fountains of history, for its source, it comes down
to us, at this day, with so venerable an appearance of antiquity, that for
that cause and on that claim alone it demands the respect of the world. It
is no recent invention of human genius, whose vitality has yet to be tested
by the wear and tear of time and opposition, and no sudden growth of
short-lived enthusiasm, whose existence may be as ephemeral as its birth was
recent. One of the oldest of these modern institutions, the Carbonarism of
Italy, boasts an age that scarcely amounts to the half of a century, and has
not been able to extend its progress beyond the countries of Southern
Europe, immediately adjacent to the place of its birth; while it and every
other society of our own times that have sought to simulate the outward
appearance of Freemasonry, seem to him who has examined the history of this
ancient institution to have sprung around it, like mushrooms bursting from
between the roots and vegetating under the shade of some mighty and
venerable oak, the patriarch of the forest, whose huge trunk and
wide-extended branches have protected them from the sun and the gale, and
whose fruit, thrown off in autumn, has enriched and fattened the soil that
gives these humbler plants their power of life and growth.
But there is a more important
deduction to be drawn from this narrative. In tracing the progress of
Freemasonry, we shall find it so intimately connected with the history of
philosophy, of religion, and of art in all ages of the world, that it is
evident that no Mason can expect thoroughly to understand the nature of the
institution, or to appreciate its character, unless he shall carefully study
its annals, and make himself conversant with the facts of history, to which
and from which it gives and receives a mutual influence. The brother who
unfortunately supposes that the only requisites of a skilful Mason consist
in repeating with fluency the ordinary lectures, or in correctly opening and
closing the lodge, or in giving with sufficient accuracy the modes of
recognition, will hardly credit the assertion, that he whose knowledge of
the "royal art" extends no farther than these preliminaries has scarcely
advanced beyond the rudiments of our science. There is a far nobler series
of doctrines with which Freemasonry is connected, and which no student ever
began to investigate who did not find himself insensibly led on, from step
to step in his researches, his love and admiration of the order increasing
with the augmentation of his acquaintance with its character. It is this
which constitutes the science and the philosophy of Freemasonry, and it is
this alone which will return the scholar who devotes himself to the task a
sevenfold reward for his labor.
With this view I propose, in
the next place, to enter upon an examination of that science and philosophy
as they are developed in the system of symbolism, which owes its existence
to this peculiar origin and organization of the order, and without a
knowledge of which, such as I have attempted to portray it in this
preliminary inquiry, the science itself could never be understood.
The System of Symbolic InstRuction.
The lectures of the English
lodges, which are far more philosophical than our own,—although I do not
believe that the system itself is in general as philosophically studied by
our English brethren as by ourselves,—have beautifully defined Freemasonry
to be "a science of morality veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols."
But allegory itself is nothing else but verbal symbolism; it is the symbol
of an idea, or of a series of ideas, not presented to the mind in an
objective and visible form, but clothed in language, and exhibited in the
form of a narrative. And therefore the English definition amounts, in fact,
to this: that Freemasonry is a science of morality, developed and
inculcated by the ancient method of symbolism. It is this peculiar
character as a symbolic institution, this entire adoption of the method of
instruction by symbolism, which gives its whole identity to Freemasonry, and
has caused it to differ from every other association that the ingenuity of
man has devised. It is this that has bestowed upon it that attractive form
which has always secured the attachment of its disciples and its own
The Roman Catholic church37
is, perhaps, the only contemporaneous institution which continues to
cultivate, in any degree, the beautiful system of symbolism. But that which,
in the Catholic church, is, in a great measure, incidental, and the fruit of
development, is, in Freemasonry, the very life-blood and soul of the
institution, born with it at its birth, or, rather, the germ from which the
tree has sprung, and still giving it support, nourishment, and even
existence. Withdraw from Freemasonry its symbolism, and you take from the
body its soul, leaving behind nothing but a lifeless mass of effete matter,
fitted only for a rapid decay.
Since, then, the science of
symbolism forms so important a part of the system of Freemasonry, it will be
well to commence any discussion of that subject by an investigation of the
nature of symbols in general.
There is no science so
ancient as that of symbolism,38
and no mode of instruction has ever been so general as was the symbolic in
former ages. "The first learning in the world," says the great antiquary,
Dr. Stukely, "consisted chiefly of symbols. The wisdom of the Chaldeans,
Phoenicians, Egyptians, Jews, of Zoroaster, Sanchoniathon, Pherecydes, Syrus,
Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato, of all the ancients that is come to our hand,
is symbolic." And the learned Faber remarks, that "allegory and
personification were peculiarly agreeable to the genius of antiquity, and
the simplicity of truth was continually sacrificed at the shrine of poetical
In fact, man's earliest
instruction was by symbols.39
The objective character of a symbol is best calculated to be grasped by the
infant mind, whether the infancy of that mind be considered nationally
or individually. And hence, in the first ages of the world, in its
infancy, all propositions, theological, political, or scientific, were
expressed in the form of symbols. Thus the first religions were eminently
symbolical, because, as that great philosophical historian, Grote, has
remarked, "At a time when language was yet in its infancy, visible symbols
were the most vivid means of acting upon the minds of ignorant hearers."
Again: children receive their
elementary teaching in symbols. "A was an Archer;" what is this but
symbolism? The archer becomes to the infant mind the symbol of the letter A,
just as, in after life, the letter becomes, to the more advanced mind, the
symbol of a certain sound of the human voice.40
The first lesson received by a child in acquiring his alphabet is thus
conveyed by symbolism. Even in the very formation of language, the medium of
communication between man and man, and which must hence have been an
elementary step in the progress of human improvement, it was found necessary
to have recourse to symbols, for words are only and truly certain arbitrary
symbols by which and through which we give an utterance to our ideas. The
construction of language was, therefore, one of the first products of the
science of symbolism.
We must constantly bear in
mind this fact, of the primary existence and predominance of symbolism in
the earliest times.41
when we are investigating the nature of the ancient religions, with which
the history of Freemasonry is so intimately connected. The older the
religion, the more the symbolism abounds. Modern religions may convey their
dogmas in abstract propositions; ancient religions always conveyed them in
symbols. Thus there is more symbolism in the Egyptian religion than in the
Jewish, more in the Jewish than in the Christian, more in the Christian than
in the Mohammedan, and, lastly, more in the Roman than in the Protestant.
But symbolism is not only the
most ancient and general, but it is also the most practically useful, of
sciences. We have already seen how actively it operates in the early stages
of life and of society. We have seen how the first ideas of men and of
nations are impressed upon their minds by means of symbols. It was thus that
the ancient peoples were almost wholly educated.
"In the simpler stages of
society," says one writer on this subject, "mankind can be instructed in the
abstract knowledge of truths only by symbols and parables. Hence we find
most heathen religions becoming mythic, or explaining their mysteries by
allegories, or instructive incidents. Nay, God himself, knowing the nature
of the creatures formed by him, has condescended, in the earlier revelations
that he made of himself, to teach by symbols; and the greatest of all
teachers instructed the multitudes by parables.42
The great exemplar of the ancient philosophy and the grand archetype of
modern philosophy were alike distinguished by their possessing this faculty
in a high degree, and have told us that man was best instructed by
Such is the system adopted in
Freemasonry for the development and inculcation of the great religious and
philosophical truths, of which it was, for so many years, the sole
conservator. And it is for this reason that I have already remarked, that
any inquiry into the symbolic character of Freemasonry, must be preceded by
an investigation of the nature of symbolism in general, if we would properly
appreciate its particular use in the organization of the masonic
The Speculative Science and the Operative Art.
And now, let us apply this
doctrine of symbolism to an investigation of the nature of a speculative
science, as derived from an operative art; for the fact is familiar to every
one that Freemasonry is of two kinds. We work, it is true, in speculative
Masonry only, but our ancient brethren wrought in both operative and
speculative; and it is now well understood that the two branches are widely
apart in design and in character—the one a mere useful art, intended for the
protection and convenience of man and the gratification of his physical
wants, the other a profound science, entering into abstruse investigations
of the soul and a future existence, and originating in the craving need of
humanity to know something that is above and beyond the mere outward life
that surrounds us with its gross atmosphere here below.44
Indeed, the only bond or link that unites speculative and operative Masonry
is the symbolism that belongs altogether to the former, but which,
throughout its whole extent, is derived from the latter.
Our first inquiry, then, will
be into the nature of the symbolism which operative gives to speculative
Masonry; and thoroughly to understand this—to know its origin, and its
necessity, and its mode of application—we must begin with a reference to the
condition of a long past period of time.
Thousands of years ago, this
science of symbolism was adopted by the sagacious priesthood of Egypt to
convey the lessons of worldly wisdom and religious knowledge, which they
thus communicated to their disciples.45
Their science, their history, and their philosophy were thus concealed
beneath an impenetrable veil from all the profane, and only the few who had
passed through the severe ordeal of initiation were put in possession of the
key which enabled them to decipher and read with ease those mystic lessons
which we still see engraved upon the obelisks, the tombs, and the
sarcophagi, which lie scattered, at this day, in endless profusion along the
banks of the Nile.
From the Egyptians the same
method of symbolic instruction was diffused among all the pagan nations of
antiquity, and was used in all the ancient Mysteries46
as the medium of communicating to the initiated the esoteric and secret
doctrines for whose preservation and promulgation these singular
associations were formed.
Moses, who, as Holy Writ
informs us, was skilled in all the learning of Egypt, brought with him, from
that cradle of the sciences, a perfect knowledge of the science of
symbolism, as it was taught by the priests of Isis and Osiris, and applied
it to the ceremonies with which he invested the purer religion of the people
for whom he had been appointed to legislate.47
Hence we learn, from the
great Jewish historian, that, in the construction of the tabernacle, which
gave the first model for the temple at Jerusalem, and afterwards for every
masonic lodge, this principle of symbolism was applied to every part of it.
Thus it was divided into three parts, to represent the three great
elementary divisions of the universe—the land, the sea, and the air. The
first two, or exterior portions, which were accessible to the priests and
the people, were symbolic of the land and the sea, which all men might
inhabit; while the third, or interior division,—the holy of holies,—whose
threshold no mortal dared to cross, and which was peculiarly consecrated to
GOD, was emblematic of heaven, his dwelling-place. The veils, too, according
to Josephus, were intended for symbolic instruction in their color and their
materials. Collectively, they represented the four elements of the universe;
and, in passing, it may be observed that this notion of symbolizing the
universe characterized all the ancient systems, both the true and the false,
and that the remains of the principle are to be found everywhere, even at
this day, pervading Masonry, which is but a development of these systems. In
the four veils of the tabernacle, the white or fine linen signified the
earth, from which flax was produced; the scarlet signified fire,
appropriately represented by its flaming color; the purple typified the sea,
in allusion to the shell-fish murex, from which the tint was obtained; and
the blue, the color of the firmament, was emblematic of air.48
It is not necessary to enter
into a detail of the whole system of religious symbolism, as developed in
the Mosaic ritual. It was but an application of the same principles of
instruction, that pervaded all the surrounding Gentile nations, to the
inculcation of truth. The very idea of the ark itself49
was borrowed, as the discoveries of the modern Egyptologists have shown us,
from the banks of the Nile; and the breastplate of the high priest, with its
Urim and Thummim,50
was indebted for its origin to a similar ornament worn by the Egyptian
judge. The system was the same; in its application, only, did it differ.
With the tabernacle of Moses
the temple of King Solomon is closely connected: the one was the archetype
of the other. Now, it is at the building of that temple that we must place
the origin of Freemasonry in its present organization: not that the system
did not exist before, but that the union of its operative and speculative
character, and the mutual dependence of one upon the other, were there first
At the construction of this
stupendous edifice—stupendous, not in magnitude, for many a parish church
has since excelled it in size,51
but stupendous in the wealth and magnificence of its ornaments—the wise king
of Israel, with all that sagacity for which he was so eminently
distinguished, and aided and counselled by the Gentile experience of the
king of Tyre, and that immortal architect who superintended his workmen, saw
at once the excellence and beauty of this method of inculcating moral and
religious truth, and gave, therefore, the impulse to that symbolic reference
of material things to a spiritual sense, which has ever since distinguished
the institution of which he was the founder.
If I deemed it necessary to
substantiate the truth of the assertion that the mind of King Solomon was
eminently symbolic in its propensities, I might easily refer to his
writings, filled as they are to profusion with tropes and figures. Passing
over the Book of Canticles,—that great lyrical drama, whose abstruse
symbolism has not yet been fully evolved or explained, notwithstanding the
vast number of commentators who have labored at the task,—I might simply
refer to that beautiful passage in the twelfth chapter of Ecclesiastes, so
familiar to every Mason as being appropriated, in the ritual, to the
ceremonies of the third degree, and in which a dilapidated building is
metaphorically made to represent the decays and infirmities of old age in
the human body. This brief but eloquent description is itself an embodiment
of much of our masonic symbolism, both as to the mode and the subject
In attempting any
investigation into the symbolism of Freemasonry, the first thing that should
engage our attention is the general purport of the institution, and the mode
in which its symbolism is developed. Let us first examine it as a whole,
before we investigate its parts, just as we would first view, as critics,
the general effect of a building, before we began to inquire into its
Looking, then, in this way,
at the institution—coming down to us, as it has, from a remote age—having
passed unaltered and unscathed through a thousand revolutions of nations—and
engaging, as disciples in its school of mental labor, the intellectual of
all times—the first thing that must naturally arrest the attention is the
singular combination that it presents of an operative with a speculative
organization—an art with a science—the technical terms and language of a
mechanical profession with the abstruse teachings of a profound philosophy.
Here it is before us—a
venerable school, discoursing of the deepest subjects of wisdom, in which
sages might alone find themselves appropriately employed, and yet having its
birth and deriving its first life from a society of artisans, whose only
object was, apparently, the construction of material edifices of stone and
The nature, then, of this
operative and speculative combination, is the first problem to be solved,
and the symbolism which depends upon it is the first feature of the
institution which is to be developed.
Freemasonry, in its character
as an operative art, is familiar to every one. As such, it is engaged in the
application of the rules and principles of architecture to the construction
of edifices for private and public use—houses for the dwelling-place of man,
and temples for the worship of Deity. It abounds, like every other art, in
the use of technical terms, and employs, in practice, an abundance of
implements and materials which are peculiar to itself.
Now, if the ends of operative
Masonry had here ceased,—if this technical dialect and these technical
implements had never been used for any other purpose, nor appropriated to
any other object, than that of enabling its disciples to pursue their
artistic labors with greater convenience to themselves,—Freemasonry would
never have existed. The same principles might, and in all probability would,
have been developed in some other way; but the organization, the name, the
mode of instruction, would all have most materially differed.
But the operative Masons, who
founded the order, were not content with the mere material and manual part
of their profession: they adjoined to it, under the wise instructions of
their leaders, a correlative branch of study.
And hence, to the Freemason,
this operative art has been symbolized in that intellectual deduction from
it, which has been correctly called Speculative Masonry. At one time, each
was an integrant part of one undivided system. Not that the period ever
existed when every operative mason was acquainted with, or initiated into,
the speculative science. Even now, there are thousands of skilful artisans
who know as little of that as they do of the Hebrew language which was
spoken by its founder. But operative Masonry was, in the inception of our
history, and is, in some measure, even now, the skeleton upon which was
strung the living muscles, and tendons, and nerves of the speculative
system. It was the block of marble—rude and unpolished it may have been—from
which was sculptured the life-breathing statue.52
Speculative Masonry (which is
but another name for Freemasonary in its modern acceptation) may be briefly
defined as the scientific application and the religious consecration of the
rules and principles, the language, the implements and materials of
operative Masonry to the veneration of God, the purification of the heart,
and the inculcation of the dogmas of a religious philosophy.
He Symbolism of Solomon'S Temple.
I have said that the
operative art is symbolized—that is to say, used as a symbol—in the
speculative science. Let us now inquire, as the subject of the present
essay, how this is done in reference to a system of symbolism dependent for
its construction on types and figures derived from the temple of Solomon,
and which we hence call the "Temple Symbolism of Freemasonry."
Bearing in mind that
speculative Masonry dates its origin from the building of King Solomon's
temple by Jewish and Tyrian artisans,53
the first important fact that attracts the attention is, that the operative
masons at Jerusalem were engaged in the construction of an earthly and
material temple, to be dedicated to the service and worship of God—a house
in which Jehovah was to dwell visibly by his Shekinah, and whence he was, by
the Urim and Thummim, to send forth his oracles for the government and
direction of his chosen people.
Now, the operative art
having, for us, ceased, we, as speculative Masons, symbolize the
labors of our predecessors by engaging in the construction of a spiritual
temple in our hearts, pure and spotless, fit for the dwelling-place of Him
who is the author of purity—where God is to be worshipped in spirit and in
truth, and whence every evil thought and unruly passion is to be banished,
as the sinner and the Gentile were excluded from the sanctuary of the Jewish
This spiritualizing of the
temple of Solomon is the first, the most prominent and most pervading of all
the symbolic instructions of Freemasonry. It is the link that binds the
operative and speculative divisions of the order. It is this which gives it
its religious character. Take from Freemasonry its dependence on the temple,
leave out of its ritual all reference to that sacred edifice, and to the
legends connected with it, and the system itself must at once decay and die,
or at best remain only as some fossilized bone, imperfectly to show the
nature of the living body to which it once belonged.
Temple worship is in itself
an ancient type of the religious sentiment in its progress towards spiritual
elevation. As soon as a nation emerged, in the world's progress, out of
Fetichism, or the worship of visible objects,—the most degraded form of
idolatry,—its people began to establish a priesthood and to erect temples.54
The Scandinavians, the Celts, the Egyptians, and the Greeks, however much
they may have differed in the ritual and the objects of their polytheistic
worship, all were possessed of priests and temples. The Jews first
constructed their tabernacle, or portable temple, and then, when time and
opportunity permitted, transferred their monotheistic worship to that more
permanent edifice which is now the subject of our contemplation. The mosque
of the Mohammedan and the church or the chapel of the Christian are but
embodiments of the same idea of temple worship in a simpler form.
The adaptation, therefore, of
the material temple to a science of symbolism would be an easy, and by no
means a novel task, to both the Jewish and the Tyrian mind. Doubtless, at
its original conception, the idea was rude and unembellished, to be
perfected and polished only by future aggregations of succeeding intellects.
And yet no biblical scholar will venture to deny that there was, in the mode
of building, and in all the circumstances connected with the construction of
King Solomon's temple, an apparent design to establish a foundation for
I propose now to illustrate,
by a few examples, the method in which the speculative Masons have
appropriated this design of King Solomon to their own use.
To construct his earthly
temple, the operative mason followed the architectural designs laid down on
the trestle-board, or tracing-board, or book of plans of the
architect. By these he hewed and squared his materials; by these he raised
his walls; by these he constructed his arches; and by these strength and
durability, combined with grace and beauty, were bestowed upon the edifice
which he was constructing.
The trestle-board becomes,
therefore, one of our elementary symbols. For in the masonic ritual the
speculative Mason is reminded that, as the operative artist erects his
temporal building, in accordance with the rules and designs laid down on the
trestle-board of the master-workman, so should he erect that spiritual
building, of which the material is a type, in obedience to the rules and
designs, the precepts and commands, laid down by the grand Architect of the
universe, in those great books of nature and revelation, which constitute
the spiritual trestle-board of every Freemason.
The trestle-board is, then,
the symbol of the natural and moral law. Like every other symbol of the
order, it is universal and tolerant in its application; and while, as
Christian Masons, we cling with unfaltering integrity to that explanation
which makes the Scriptures of both dispensations our trestle-board, we
permit our Jewish and Mohammedan brethren to content themselves with the
books of the Old Testament, or the Koran. Masonry does not interfere with
the peculiar form or development of any one's religious faith. All that it
asks is, that the interpretation of the symbol shall be according to what
each one supposes to be the revealed will of his Creator. But so rigidly
exacting is it that the symbol shall be preserved, and, in some rational
way, interpreted, that it peremptorily excludes the Atheist from its
communion, because, believing in no Supreme Being, no divine Architect, he
must necessarily be without a spiritual trestle-board on which the designs
of that Being may be inscribed for his direction.
But the operative mason
required materials wherewith to construct his temple. There was, for
instance, the rough ashlar—the stone in its rude and natural
state—unformed and unpolished, as it had been lying in the quarries of Tyre
from the foundation of the earth. This stone was to be hewed and squared, to
be fitted and adjusted, by simple, but appropriate implements, until it
became a perfect ashlar, or well-finished stone, ready to take its
destined place in the building.
Here, then, again, in these
materials do we find other elementary symbols. The rough and unpolished
stone is a symbol of man's natural state—ignorant, uncultivated, and, as the
Roman historian expresses it, "grovelling to the earth, like the beasts of
the field, and obedient to every sordid appetite;"
56 but when
education has exerted its salutary influences in expanding his intellect, in
restraining his hitherto unruly passions, and purifying his life, he is then
represented by the perfect ashlar, or finished stone, which, under the
skilful hands of the workman, has been smoothed, and squared, and fitted for
its appropriate place in the building.
Here an interesting
circumstance in the history of the preparation of these materials has been
seized and beautifully appropriated by our symbolic science. We learn from
the account of the temple, contained in the First Book of Kings, that "The
house, when it was in building, was built of stone, made ready before it was
brought thither, so that there was neither hammer nor axe, nor any tool of
iron, heard in the house while it was in building."
Now, this mode of
construction, undoubtedly adopted to avoid confusion and discord among so
many thousand workmen,58
has been selected as an elementary symbol of concord and harmony—virtues
which are not more essential to the preservation and perpetuity of our own
society than they are to that of every human association.
The perfect ashlar,
therefore,—the stone thus fitted for its appropriate position in the
temple,—becomes not only a symbol of human perfection (in itself, of course,
only a comparative term), but also, when we refer to the mode in which it
was prepared, of that species of perfection which results from the concord
and union of men in society. It is, in fact, a symbol of the social
character of the institution.
There are other elementary
symbols, to which I may hereafter have occasion to revert; the three,
however, already described,—the rough ashlar, the perfect ashlar, and the
trestle-board,—and which, from their importance, have received the name of
"jewels," will be sufficient to give some idea of the nature of what may be
called the "symbolic alphabet" of Masonry. Let us now proceed to a brief
consideration of the method in which this alphabet of the science is applied
to the more elevated and abstruser portions of the system, and which, as the
temple constitutes its most important type, I have chosen to call the
"Temple Symbolism of Masonry."
Both Scripture and tradition
inform us that, at the building of King Solomon's temple, the masons were
divided into different classes, each engaged in different tasks. We learn,
from the Second Book of Chronicles, that these classes were the bearers of
burdens, the hewers of stones, and the overseers, called by the old masonic
writers the Ish sabal, the Ish chotzeb, and the Menatzchim.
Now, without pretending to say that the modern institution has preserved
precisely the same system of regulations as that which was observed at the
temple, we shall certainly find a similarity in these divisions to the
Apprentices, Fellow Crafts and Master Masons of our own day. At all events,
the three divisions made by King Solomon, in the workmen at Jerusalem, have
been adopted as the types of the three degrees now practised in speculative
Masonry; and as such we are, therefore, to consider them. The mode in which
these three divisions of workmen labored in constructing the temple, has
been beautifully symbolized in speculative Masonry, and constitutes an
important and interesting part of temple symbolism.
Thus we know, from our own
experience among modern workmen, who still pursue the same method, as well
as from the traditions of the order, that the implements used in the
quarries were few and simple, the work there requiring necessarily, indeed,
but two tools, namely, the twenty-four inch gauge, or two foot rule,
and the common gavel, or stone-cutter's hammer. With the former
implement, the operative mason took the necessary dimensions of the stone he
was about to prepare, and with the latter, by repeated blows, skilfully
applied, he broke off every unnecessary protuberance, and rendered it smooth
and square, and fit to take its place in the building.
And thus, in the first degree
of speculative Masonry, the Entered Apprentice receives these simple
implements, as the emblematic working tools of his profession, with their
appropriate symbolical instruction. To the operative mason their mechanical
and practical use alone is signified, and nothing more of value does their
presence convey to his mind. To the speculative Mason the sight of them is
suggestive of far nobler and sublimer thoughts; they teach him to measure,
not stones, but time; not to smooth and polish the marble for the builder's
use, but to purify and cleanse his heart from every vice and imperfection
that would render it unfit for a place in the spiritual temple of his body.
In the symbolic alphabet of
Freemasonry, therefore, the twenty-four inch gauge is a symbol of time well
employed; the common gavel, of the purification of the heart.
Here we may pause for a
moment to refer to one of the coincidences between Freemasonry and those
which formed so important a part of the ancient religions, and which
coincidences have led the writers on this subject to the formation of a
well-supported theory that there was a common connection between them. The
coincidence to which I at present allude is this: in all these Mysteries—the
incipient ceremony of initiation—the first step taken by the candidate was a
lustration or purification. The aspirant was not permitted to enter the
sacred vestibule, or take any part in the secret formula of initiation,
until, by water or by fire, he was emblematically purified from the
corruptions of the world which he was about to leave behind. I need not,
after this, do more than suggest the similarity of this formula, in
principle, to a corresponding one in Freemasonry, where the first symbols
presented to the apprentice are those which inculcate a purification of the
heart, of which the purification of the body in the ancient Mysteries was
We no longer use the bath or
the fountain, because in our philosophical system the symbolization is more
abstract, if I may use the term; but we present the aspirant with the
lamb-skin apron, the gauge, and the gavel, as symbols of a
spiritual purification. The design is the same, but the mode in which it is
accomplished is different.
Let us now resume the
connected series of temple symbolism.
At the building of the
temple, the stones having been thus prepared by the workmen of the lowest
degree (the Apprentices, as we now call them, the aspirants of the ancient
Mysteries), we are informed that they were transported to the site of the
edifice on Mount Moriah, and were there placed in the hands of another class
of workmen, who are now technically called the Fellow Crafts, and who
correspond to the Mystes, or those who had received the second degree of the
ancient Mysteries. At this stage of the operative work more extensive and
important labors were to be performed, and accordingly a greater amount of
skill and knowledge was required of those to whom these labors were
intrusted. The stones, having been prepared by the Apprentices60
(for hereafter, in speaking of the workmen of the temple, I shall use the
equivalent appellations of the more modern Masons), were now to be deposited
in their destined places in the building, and the massive walls were to be
erected. For these purposes implements of a higher and more complicated
character than the gauge and gavel were necessary. The square was
required to fit the joints with sufficient accuracy, the level to run
the courses in a horizontal line, and the plumb to erect the whole
with due regard to perfect perpendicularity. This portion of the labor finds
its symbolism in the second degree of the speculative science, and in
applying this symbolism we still continue to refer to the idea of erecting a
spiritual temple in the heart.
The necessary preparations,
then, having been made in the first degree, the lessons having been received
by which the aspirant is taught to commence the labor of life with the
purification of the heart, as a Fellow Craft he continues the task by
cultivating those virtues which give form and impression to the character,
as well adapted stones give shape and stability to the building. And hence
the "working tools" of the Fellow Craft are referred, in their symbolic
application, to those virtues. In the alphabet of symbolism, we find the
square, the level, and the plumb appropriated to this second degree. The
square is a symbol denoting morality. It teaches us to apply the unerring
principles of moral science to every action of our lives, to see that all
the motives and results of our conduct shall coincide with the dictates of
divine justice, and that all our thoughts, words, and deeds shall
harmoniously conspire, like the well-adjusted and rightly-squared joints of
an edifice, to produce a smooth, unbroken life of virtue.
The plumb is a symbol of
rectitude of conduct, and inculcates that integrity of life and undeviating
course of moral uprightness which can alone distinguish the good and just
man. As the operative workman erects his temporal building with strict
observance of that plumb-line, which will not permit him to deviate a hair's
breadth to the right or to the left, so the speculative Mason, guided by the
unerring principles of right and truth inculcated in the symbolic teachings
of the same implement, is steadfast in the pursuit of truth, neither bending
beneath the frowns of adversity nor yielding to the seductions of
The level, the last of the
three working tools of the operative craftsman, is a symbol of equality of
station. Not that equality of civil or social position which is to be found
only in the vain dreams of the anarchist or the Utopian, but that great
moral and physical equality which affects the whole human race as the
children of one common Father, who causes his sun to shine and his rain to
fall on all alike, and who has so appointed the universal lot of humanity,
that death, the leveller of all human greatness, is made to visit with equal
pace the prince's palace and the peasant's hut.62
Here, then, we have three
more signs or hieroglyphics added to our alphabet of symbolism. Others there
are in this degree, but they belong to a higher grade of interpretation, and
cannot be appropriately discussed in an essay on temple symbolism only.
We now reach the third
degree, the Master Masons of the modern science, and the Epopts, or
beholders of the sacred things in the ancient Mysteries.
In the third degree the
symbolic allusions to the temple of Solomon, and the implements of Masonry
employed in its construction, are extended and fully completed. At the
building of that edifice, we have already seen that one class of the workmen
was employed in the preparation of the materials, while another was engaged
in placing those materials in their proper position. But there was a third
and higher class,—the master workmen,—whose duty it was to superintend the
two other classes, and to see that the stones were not only duly prepared,
but that the most exact accuracy had been observed in giving to them their
true juxtaposition in the edifice. It was then only that the last and
was performed, and the cement was applied by these skilful workmen, to
secure the materials in their appropriate places, and to unite the building
in one enduring and connected mass. Hence the trowel, we are
informed, was the most important, though of course not the only, implement
in use among the master builders. They did not permit this last, indelible
operation to be performed by any hands less skilful than their own. They
required that the craftsmen should prove the correctness of their work by
the square, level, and plumb, and test, by these unerring instruments, the
accuracy of their joints; and, when satisfied of the just arrangement of
every part, the cement, which was to give an unchangeable union to the
whole, was then applied by themselves.
Hence, in speculative
Masonry, the trowel has been assigned to the third degree as its proper
implement, and the symbolic meaning which accompanies it has a strict and
beautiful reference to the purposes for which it was used in the ancient
temple; for as it was there employed "to spread the cement which united the
building in one common mass," so is it selected as the symbol of brotherly
love—that cement whose object is to unite our mystic association in one
sacred and harmonious band of brethren.
Here, then, we perceive the
first, or, as I have already called it, the elementary form of our
symbolism—the adaptation of the terms, and implements, and processes of an
operative art to a speculative science. The temple is now completed. The
stones having been hewed, squared, and numbered in the quarries by the
apprentices,—having been properly adjusted by the craftsmen, and finally
secured in their appropriate places, with the strongest and purest cement,
by the master builders,—the temple of King Solomon presented, in its
finished condition, so noble an appearance of sublimity and grandeur as to
well deserve to be selected, as it has been, for the type or symbol of that
immortal temple of the body, to which Christ significantly and symbolically
alluded when he said, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise
This idea of representing the
interior and spiritual man by a material temple is so apposite in all its
parts as to have occurred on more than one occasion to the first teachers of
Christianity. Christ himself repeatedly alludes to it in other passages, and
the eloquent and figurative St. Paul beautifully extends the idea in one of
his Epistles to the Corinthians, in the following language: "Know ye not
that ye are the temple of God, and that the spirit of God dwelleth in you?"
And again, in a subsequent passage of the same Epistle, he reiterates the
idea in a more positive form: "What, know ye not that your body is the
temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are
not your own?" And Dr. Adam Clarke, while commenting on this latter passage,
makes the very allusions which have been the topic of discussion in the
present essay. "As truly," says he, "as the living God dwelt in the Mosaic
tabernacle and in the temple of Solomon, so truly does the Holy Ghost dwell
in the souls of genuine Christians; and as the temple and all its
utensils were holy, separated from all common and profane uses, and
dedicated alone to the service of God, so the bodies of genuine Christians
are holy, and should be employed in the service of God alone."
The idea, therefore, of
making the temple a symbol of the body, is not exclusively masonic; but the
mode of treating the symbolism by a reference to the particular temple of
Solomon, and to the operative art engaged in its construction, is peculiar
to Freemasonry. It is this which isolates it from all other similar
associations. Having many things in common with the secret societies and
religious Mysteries of antiquity, in this "temple symbolism" it differs from
The Form of the Lodge.
In the last essay, I treated
of that symbolism of the masonic system which makes the temple of Jerusalem
the archetype of a lodge, and in which, in consequence, all the symbols are
referred to the connection of a speculative science with an operative art. I
propose in the present to discourse of a higher and abstruser mode of
symbolism; and it may be observed that, in coming to this topic, we arrive,
for the first time, at that chain of resemblances which unites Freemasonry
with the ancient systems of religion, and which has given rise, among
masonic writers, to the names of Pure and Spurious Freemasonry—the pure
Freemasonry being that system of philosophical religion which, coming
through the line of the patriarchs, was eventually modified by influences
exerted at the building of King Solomon's temple, and the spurious being the
same system as it was altered and corrupted by the polytheism of the nations
As this abstruser mode of
symbolism, if less peculiar to the masonic system, is, however, far more
interesting than the one which was treated in the previous essay,—because it
is more philosophical,—I propose to give an extended investigation of its
character. And, in the first place, there is what may be called an
elementary view of this abstruser symbolism, which seems almost to be a
corollary from what has already been described in the preceding article.
As each individual mason has
been supposed to be the symbol of a spiritual temple,—"a temple not made
with hands, eternal in the heavens,"—the lodge or collected assemblage of
these masons, is adopted as a symbol of the world.65
It is in the first degree of
Masonry, more particularly, that this species of symbolism is developed. In
its detail it derives the characteristics of resemblance upon which it is
founded, from the form, the supports, the ornaments, and general
construction and internal organization of a lodge, in all of which the
symbolic reference to the world is beautifully and consistently sustained.
The form of a masonic lodge
is said to be a parallelogram, or oblong square; its greatest length being
from east to west, its breadth from north to south. A square, a circle, a
triangle, or any other form but that of an oblong square, would be
eminently incorrect and unmasonic, because such a figure would not be an
expression of the symbolic idea which is intended to be conveyed.
Now, as the world is a globe,
or, to speak more accurately, an oblate spheroid, the attempt to make an
oblong square its symbol would seem, at first view, to present insuperable
difficulties. But the system of masonic symbolism has stood the test of too
long an experience to be easily found at fault; and therefore this very
symbol furnishes a striking evidence of the antiquity of the order. At the
Solomonic era—the era of the building of the temple at Jerusalem—the world,
it must be remembered, was supposed to have that very oblong form,66
which has been here symbolized. If, for instance, on a map of the world we
should inscribe an oblong figure whose boundary lines would circumscribe and
include just that portion which was known to be inhabited in the clays of
Solomon, these lines, running a short distance north and south of the
Mediterranean Sea, and extending from Spain in the west to Asia Minor in the
east, would form an oblong square, including the southern shore of Europe,
the northern shore of Africa, and the western district of Asia, the length
of the parallelogram being about sixty degrees from east to west, and its
breadth being about twenty degrees from north to south. This oblong square,
thus enclosing the whole of what was then supposed to be the habitable
precisely represent what is symbolically said to be the form of the lodge,
while the Pillars of Hercules in the west, on each side of the straits of
Gades or Gibraltar, might appropriately be referred to the two pillars that
stood at the porch of the temple.
A masonic lodge is, therefore, a symbol of
the world.This symbol is sometimes, by a very usual figure of speech,
extended, in its application, and the world and the universe are made
synonymous, when the lodge becomes, of course, a symbol of the universe. But
in this case the definition of the symbol is extended, and to the ideas of
length and breadth are added those of height and depth, and the lodge is
said to assume the form of a double cube.68
The solid contents of the earth below and the expanse of the heavens above
will then give the outlines of the cube, and the whole created universe69
will be included within the symbolic limits of a mason's lodge.
By always remembering that the lodge is the
symbol, in its form and extent, of the world, we are enabled, readily and
rationally, to explain many other symbols, attached principally to the first
degree; and we are enabled to collate and compare them with similar symbols
of other kindred institutions of antiquity, for it should be observed that
this symbolism of the world, represented by a place of initiation, widely
pervaded all the ancient rites and mysteries.
It will, no doubt, be interesting to extend
our investigations on this subject, with a particular view to the method in
which this symbolism of the world or the universe was developed, in some of
its most prominent details; and for this purpose I shall select the mystical
explanation of the officers of a lodge, its covering, and a
portion of its ornaments.
The Officers of a Lodge.
The Three Principal Officers
of a lodge are, it is needless to say, situated in the east, the west, and
the south. Now, bearing in mind that the lodge is a symbol of the world, or
the universe, the reference of these three officers to the sun at its
rising, its setting, and its meridian height, must at once suggest itself.
This is the first development
of the symbol, and a very brief inquiry will furnish ample evidence of its
antiquity and its universality.
In the Brahminical
initiations of Hindostan, which are among the earliest that have been
transmitted to us, and may almost be considered as the cradle of all the
others of subsequent ages and various countries, the ceremonies were
performed in vast caverns, the remains of some of which, at Salsette,
Elephanta, and a few other places, will give the spectator but a very
inadequate idea of the extent and splendor of these ancient Indian lodges.70
More imperfect remains than these are still to be found in great numbers
throughout Hindostan and Cashmere. Their form was sometimes that of a cross,
emblematic of the four elements of which the earth is composed,—fire, water,
air, and earth,—but more generally an oval, as a representation of the
mundane egg, which, in the ancient systems, was a symbol of the world.71
The interior of the cavern of
initiation was lighted by innumerable lamps, and there sat in the east, the
west, and the south the principal Hierophants, or explainers of the
Mysteries, as the representatives of Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva. Now, Brahma
was the supreme deity of the Hindoos, borrowed or derived from the Sun-god
of their Sabean ancestors, and Vishnu and Siva were but manifestations of
his attributes. We learn from the Indian Pantheon that "when the sun rises
in the east, he is Brahma; when he gains his meridian in the south, he is
Siva; and when he sets in the west, he is Vishnu."
Again, in the Zoroasteric
mysteries of Persia, the temple of initiation was circular, being made so to
represent the universe; and the sun in the east, with the surrounding
zodiac, formed an indispensable part of the ceremony of reception.72
In the Egyptian mysteries of
Osiris, the same reference to the sun is contained, and Herodotus, who was
himself an initiate, intimates that the ceremonies consisted in the
representation of a Sun-god, who had been incarnate, that is, had appeared
upon earth, or rose, and who was at length put to death by Typhon, the
symbol of darkness, typical of the sun's setting.
In the great mysteries of
which were celebrated at Athens, we learn from St. Chrysostom, as well as
other authorities, that the temple of initiation was symbolic of the
universe, and we know that one of the officers represented the sun.74
In the Celtic mysteries of
the Druids, the temple of initiation was either oval, to represent the
mundane egg—a symbol, as has already been said, of the world; or circular,
because the circle was a symbol of the universe; or cruciform, in allusion
to the four elements, or constituents of the universe. In the Island of
Lewis, in Scotland, there is one combining the cruciform and circular form.
There is a circle, consisting of twelve stones, while three more are placed
in the east, and as many in the west and south, and thirty-eight, in two
parallel lines, in the north, forming an avenue to the circular temple. In
the centre of the circle is the image of the god. In the initiations into
these rites, the solar deity performed an important part, and the
celebrations commenced at daybreak, when the sun was hailed on his
appearance above the horizon as "the god of victory, the king who rises in
light and ascends the sky."
But I need not multiply these
instances of sun-worship. Every country and religion of the ancient world
would afford one.75
Sufficient has been cited to show the complete coincidence, in reference to
the sun, between the symbolism of Freemasonry and that of the ancient rites
and Mysteries, and to suggest for them a common origin, the sun being always
in the former system, from the earliest times of the primitive or
patriarchal Masonry, considered simply as a manifestation of the Wisdom,
Strength, and Beauty of the Divine Architect, visibly represented by the
position of the three principal officers of a lodge, while by the latter, in
their degeneration from, and corruption of the true Noachic faith, it was
adopted as the special object of adoration.
The Point Within a Circle.
The point within a Circle is
another symbol of great importance in Freemasonry, and commands peculiar
attention in this connection with the ancient symbolism of the universe and
the solar orb. Everybody who has read a masonic "Monitor" is well acquainted
with the usual explanation of this symbol. We are told that the point
represents an individual brother, the circle the boundary line of his duty
to God and man, and the two perpendicular parallel lines the patron saints
of the order—St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist.
Now, this explanation, trite
and meagre as it is, may do very well for the exoteric teaching of the
order; but the question at this time is, not how it has been explained by
modern lecturers and masonic system-makers, but what was the ancient
interpretation of the symbol, and how should it be read as a sacred
hieroglyphic in reference to the true philosophic system which constitutes
the real essence and character of Freemasonry?
Perfectly to understand this
symbol, I must refer, as a preliminary matter, to the worship of the
Phallus, a peculiar modification of sun-worship, which prevailed to a
great extent among the nations of antiquity.
The Phallus was a sculptured
representation of the membrum virile, or male organ of generation,76
and the worship of it is said to have originated in Egypt, where, after the
murder of Osiris by Typhon, which is symbolically to be explained as the
destruction or deprivation of the sun's light by night, Isis, his wife, or
the symbol of nature, in the search for his mutilated body, is said to have
found all the parts except the organs of generation, which myth is simply
symbolic of the fact, that the sun having set, its fecundating and
invigorating power had ceased. The Phallus, therefore, as the symbol of the
male generative principle, was very universally venerated among the
that too as a religious rite, without the slightest reference to any impure
or lascivious application.78
He is supposed, by some commentators, to be the god mentioned under the name
of Baal-peor, in the Book of Numbers,79
as having been worshipped by the idolatrous Moabites. Among the eastern
nations of India the same symbol was prevalent, under the name of "Lingam."
But the Phallus or Lingam was a representation of the male principle only.
To perfect the circle of generation it is necessary to advance one step
farther. Accordingly we find in the Cteis of the Greeks, and the
Yoni of the Indians, a symbol of the female generative principle, of
co-extensive prevalence with the Phallus. The Cteis was a circular
and concave pedestal, or receptacle, on which the Phallus or column rested,
and from the centre of which it sprang.
The union of the Phallus and
Cteis, or the Lingam and Yoni, in one compound figure, as an object of
adoration, was the most usual mode of representation. This was in strict
accordance with the whole system of ancient mythology, which was founded
upon a worship of the prolific powers of nature. All the deities of pagan
antiquity, however numerous they may be, can always be reduced to the two
different forms of the generative principle—the active, or male, and the
passive, or female. Hence the gods were always arranged in pairs, as Jupiter
and Juno, Bacchus and Venus, Osiris and Isis. But the ancients went farther.
Believing that the procreative and productive powers of nature might be
conceived to exist in the same individual, they made the older of their
deities hermaphrodite, and used the term ἀῤῥενοθέλυς, or man-virgin,
to denote the union of the two sexes in the same divine person.80
Thus, in one of the Orphic
Hymns, we find this line:—
"Ζεὺς ἄρσην γένετο, Ζεὺς
ἄμβροτος ἔπλετο νύμφη."
Jove was created a male and
an unspotted virgin.
And Plutarch, in his tract
"On Isis and Osiris," says, "God, who is a male and female intelligence,
being both life and light, brought forth another intelligence, the Creator
of the World."
Now, this hermaphrodism of
the Supreme Divinity was again supposed to be represented by the sun, which
was the male generative energy, and by nature, or the universe, which was
the female prolific principle.81
And this union was symbolized in different ways, but principally by the
point within the circle, the point indicating the sun, and the circle
the universe, invigorated and fertilized by his generative rays. And in some
of the Indian cave-temples, this allusion was made more manifest by the
inscription of the signs of the zodiac on the circle.
So far, then, we arrive at
the true interpretation of the masonic symbolism of the point within the
circle. It is the same thing, but under a different form, as the Master and
Wardens of a lodge. The Master and Wardens are symbols of the sun, the lodge
of the universe, or world, just as the point is the symbol of the same sun,
and the surrounding circle of the universe.
But the two perpendicular
parallel lines remain to be explained. Every one is familiar with the very
recent interpretation, that they represent the two Saints John, the Baptist
and the Evangelist. But this modern exposition must be abandoned, if we
desire to obtain the true ancient signification.
In the first place, we must
call to mind the fact that, at two particular points of his course, the sun
is found in the zodiacal signs of Cancer and Capricorn. These points are
astronomically distinguished as the summer and winter solstice. When the sun
is in these points, he has reached his greatest northern and southern
declination, and produces the most evident effects on the temperature of the
seasons, and on the length of the days and nights. These points, if we
suppose the circle to represent the sun's apparent course, will be indicated
by the points where the parallel lines touch the circle, or, in other words,
the parallels will indicate the limits of the sun's extreme northern and
southern declination, when he arrives at the solstitial points of Cancer and
But the days when the sun
reaches these points are, respectively, the 21st of June and the 22d of
December, and this will account for their subsequent application to the two
Saints John, whose anniversaries have been placed by the church near those
The Covering of the Lodge.
The Covering of the lodge is
another, and must be our last reference to this symbolism of the world or
the universe. The mere mention of the fact that this covering is
figuratively supposed to be "a clouded canopy," or the firmament, on which
the host of stars is represented, will be enough to indicate the continued
allusion to the symbolism of the world. The lodge, as a representative of
the world, is of course supposed to have no other roof than the heavens;82
and it would scarcely be necessary to enter into any discussion on the
subject, were it not that another symbol—the theological ladder—is so
intimately connected with it, that the one naturally suggests the other.
Now, this mystic ladder, which connects the ground floor of the lodge with
its roof or covering, is another important and interesting link, which
binds, with one common chain, the symbolism and ceremonies of Freemasonry,
and the symbolism and rites of the ancient initiations.
This mystical ladder, which
in Masonry is referred to "the theological ladder, which Jacob in his vision
saw, reaching from earth to heaven," was widely dispersed among the
religions of antiquity, where it was always supposed to consist of seven
rounds or steps.
For instance, in the
Mysteries of Mithras, in Persia, where there were seven stages or degrees of
initiation, there was erected in the temples, or rather caves,—for it was in
them that the initiation was conducted,—a high ladder, of seven steps or
gates, each of which was dedicated to one of the planets, which was typified
by one of the metals, the topmost step representing the sun, so that,
beginning at the bottom, we have Saturn represented by lead, Venus by tin,
Jupiter by brass, Mercury by iron, Mars by a mixed metal, the Moon by
silver, and the Sun by gold, the whole being a symbol of the sidereal
progress of the solar orb through the universe.
In the Mysteries of Brahma we
find the same reference to the ladder of seven steps; but here the names
were different, although there was the same allusion to the symbol of the
universe. The seven steps were emblematical of the seven worlds which
constituted the Indian universe. The lowest was the Earth; the second, the
World of Reexistence; the third, Heaven; the fourth, the Middle World, or
intermediate region between the lower and upper worlds; the fifth, the World
of Births, in which souls are again born; the sixth, the Mansion of the
Blessed; and the seventh, or topmost round, the Sphere of Truth, the abode
of Brahma, he himself being but a symbol of the sun, and hence we arrive
once more at the masonic symbolism of the universe and the solar orb.
Dr. Oliver thinks that in the
Scandinavian Mysteries he has found the mystic ladder in the sacred tree
but here the reference to the septenary division is so imperfect, or at
least abstruse, that I am unwilling to press it into our catalogue of
coincidences, although there is no doubt that we shall find in this sacred
tree the same allusion as in the ladder of Jacob, to an ascent from earth,
where its roots were planted, to heaven, where its branches expanded, which
ascent being but a change from mortality to immortality, from time to
eternity, was the doctrine taught in all the initiations. The ascent of the
ladder or of the tree was the ascent from life here to life hereafter—from
earth to heaven.
It is unnecessary to carry
these parallelisms any farther. Any one can, however, see in them an
undoubted reference to that septenary division which so universally
prevailed throughout the ancient world, and the influence of which is still
felt even in the common day life and observances of our time. Seven was,
among the Hebrews, their perfect number; and hence we see it continually
recurring in all their sacred rites. The creation was perfected in seven
days; seven priests, with seven trumpets, encompassed the walls of Jericho
for seven days; Noah received seven days' notice of the commencement of the
deluge, and seven persons accompanied him into the ark, which rested on
Mount Ararat on the seventh month; Solomon was seven years in building the
temple: and there are hundreds of other instances of the prominence of this
talismanic number, if there were either time or necessity to cite them.
Among the Gentiles the same
number was equally sacred. Pythagoras called it a "venerable number." The
septenary division of time into weeks of seven days, although not universal,
as has been generally supposed, was sufficiently so to indicate the
influence of the number. And it is remarkable, as perhaps in some way
referring to the seven-stepped ladder which we have been considering, that
in the ancient Mysteries, as Apuleius informs us, the candidate was seven
times washed in the consecrated waters of ablution.
There is, then, an anomaly in
giving to the mystical ladder of Masonry only three rounds. It is an
anomaly, however, with which Masonry has had nothing to do. The error arose
from the ignorance of those inventors who first engraved the masonic symbols
for our monitors. The ladder of Masonry, like the equipollent ladders of its
kindred institutions, always had seven steps, although in modern times the
three principal or upper ones are alone alluded to. These rounds, beginning
at the lowest, are Temperance, Fortitude, Prudence, Justice, Faith, Hope,
and Charity. Charity, therefore, takes the same place in the ladder
of masonic virtues as the sun does in the ladder of planets. In the ladder
of metals we find gold, and in that of colors yellow, occupying the same
elevated position. Now, St. Paul explains Charity as signifying, not
alms-giving, which is the modern popular meaning, but love—that love which "suffereth
long and is kind;" and when, in our lectures on this subject, we speak of it
as the greatest of virtues, because, when Faith is lost and Hope has ceased,
it extends "beyond the grave to realms of endless bliss," we there refer it
to the Divine Love of our Creator. But Portal, in his Essay on Symbolic
Colors, informs us that the sun represents Divine Love, and gold indicates
the goodness of God.
So that if Charity is
equivalent to Divine Love, and Divine Love is represented by the sun, and
lastly, if Charity be the topmost round of the masonic ladder, then again we
arrive, as the result of our researches, at the symbol so often already
repeated of the solar orb. The natural sun or the spiritual sun—the sun,
either as the vivifying principle of animated nature, and therefore the
special object of adoration, or as the most prominent instrument of the
Creator's benevolence—was ever a leading idea in the symbolism of antiquity.
Its prevalence, therefore, in
the masonic institution, is a pregnant evidence of the close analogy
existing between it and all these systems. How that analogy was first
introduced, and how it is to be explained, without detriment to the purity
and truthfulness of our own religious character, would involve a long
inquiry into the origin of Freemasonry, and the history of its connection
with the ancient systems.
These researches might have
been extended still farther; enough, however, has been said to establish the
following leading principles:—
1. That Freemasonry is,
strictly speaking, a science of symbolism.
2. That in this symbolism it
bears a striking analogy to the same science, as seen in the mystic rites of
the ancient religions.
3. That as in these ancient
religions the universe was symbolized to the candidate, and the sun, as its
vivifying principle, made the object of his adoration, or at least of his
veneration, so, in Masonry, the lodge is made the representative of the
world or the universe, and the sun is presented as its most prominent
4. That this identity of
symbolism proves an identity of origin, which identity of origin can be
shown to be strictly compatible with the true religious sentiment of
5. And fifthly and lastly,
that the whole symbolism of Freemasonry has an exclusive reference to what
the Kabalists have called the ALGABIL—the Master Builder—him whom
Freemasons have designated as the Grand Architect of the Universe.
We have hitherto been engaged
in the consideration of these simple symbols, which appear to express one
single and independent idea. They have sometimes been called the "alphabet
of Freemasonry," but improperly, I think, since the letters of the alphabet
have, in themselves, unlike these masonic symbols, no significance, but are
simply the component parts of words, themselves the representatives of
These masonic symbols rather
may be compared to the elementary characters of the Chinese language, each
of which denotes an idea; or, still better, to the hieroglyphics of the
ancient Egyptians, in which one object was represented in full by another
which bore some subjective relation to it, as the wind was represented by
the wings of a bird, or courage by the head and shoulders of a lion.
It is in the same way that in
Masonry the plumb represents rectitude, the level, human equality, and the
trowel, concord or harmony. Each is, in itself, independent, each expresses
a single elementary idea.
But we now arrive at a higher
division of masonic symbolism, which, passing beyond these tangible symbols,
brings us to those which are of a more abstruse nature, and which, as being
developed in a ceremonial form, controlled and directed by the ritual of the
order, may be designated as the ritualistic symbolism of Freemasonry.
It is to this higher division
that I now invite attention; and for the purpose of exemplifying the
definition that I have given, I shall select a few of the most prominent and
interesting ceremonies of the ritual.
Our first researches were
into the symbolism of objects; our next will be into the symbolism of
In the explanations which I
shall venture to give of this ritualistic symbolism, or the symbolism of
ceremonies, a reference will constantly be made to what has so often already
been alluded to, namely, to the analogy existing between the system of
Freemasonry and the ancient rites and Mysteries, and hence we will again
develop the identity of their origin.
Each of the degrees of
Ancient Craft Masonry contains some of these ritualistic symbols: the
lessons of the whole order are, indeed, veiled in their allegoric clothing;
but it is only to the most important that I can find opportunity to refer.
Such, among others, are the rites of discalceation, of investiture, of
circumambulation, and of intrusting. Each of these will furnish an
appropriate subject for consideration.
The Rite of Discalceation.
The rite of discalceation,
or uncovering the feet on approaching holy ground, is derived from the Latin
word discalceare, to pluck off one's shoes. The usage has the
prestige of antiquity and universality in its favor.
That it not only very
generally prevailed, but that its symbolic signification was well understood
in the days of Moses, we learn from that passage of Exodus where the angel
of the Lord, at the burning bush, exclaims to the patriarch, "Draw not nigh
hither; put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou
standest is holy ground."
thinks it is from this command that the Eastern nations have derived the
custom of performing all their acts of religious worship with bare feet. But
it is much more probable that the ceremony was in use long anterior to the
circumstance of the burning bush, and that the Jewish lawgiver at once
recognized it as a well-known sign of reverence.
entertains this opinion, and thinks that the custom was derived from the
ancient patriarchs, and was transmitted by a general tradition to succeeding
Abundant evidence might be
furnished from ancient authors of the existence of the custom among all
nations, both Jewish and Gentile. A few of them, principally collected by
Dr. Mede, must be curious and interesting.
The direction of Pythagoras
to his disciples was in these words: "Ανυπόδητος θύε ϗαι πρόσϗυνει;" that
is, Offer sacrifice and worship with thy shoes off.87
Justin Martyr says that those
who came to worship in the sanctuaries and temples of the Gentiles were
commanded by their priests to put off their shoes.
Drusius, in his Notes on the
Book of Joshua, says that among most of the Eastern nations it was a pious
duty to tread the pavement of the temple with unshod feet.88
Maimonides, the great
expounder of the Jewish law, asserts that "it was not lawful for a man to
come into the mountain of God's house with his shoes on his feet, or with
his staff, or in his working garments, or with dust on his feet."
Rabbi Solomon, commenting on
the command in Leviticus xix. 30, "Ye shall reverence my sanctuary," makes
the same remark in relation to this custom. On this subject Dr. Oliver
observes, "Now, the act of going with naked feet was always considered a
token of humility and reverence; and the priests, in the temple worship,
always officiated with feet uncovered, although it was frequently injurious
to their health." 90
Mede quotes Zago Zaba, an
Ethiopian bishop, who was ambassador from David, King of Abyssinia, to John
III., of Portugal, as saying, "We are not permitted to enter the church,
except barefooted." 91
The Mohammedans, when about
to perform their devotions, always leave their slippers at the door of the
mosque. The Druids practised the same custom whenever they celebrated their
sacred rites; and the ancient Peruvians are said always to have left their
shoes at the porch when they entered the magnificent temple consecrated to
the worship of the sun.
Adam Clarke thinks that the
custom of worshipping the Deity barefooted was so general among all nations
of antiquity, that he assigns it as one of his thirteen proofs that the
whole human race have been derived from one family.92
A theory might be advanced as
follows: The shoes, or sandals, were worn on ordinary occasions as a
protection from the defilement of the ground. To continue to wear them,
then, in a consecrated place, would be a tacit insinuation that the ground
there was equally polluted and capable of producing defilement. But, as the
very character of a holy and consecrated spot precludes the idea of any sort
of defilement or impurity, the acknowledgment that such was the case was
conveyed, symbolically, by divesting the feet of all that protection from
pollution and uncleanness which would be necessary in unconsecrated places.
So, in modern times, we
uncover the head to express the sentiment of esteem and respect. Now, in
former days, when there was more violence to be apprehended than now, the
casque, or helmet, afforded an ample protection from any sudden blow of an
unexpected adversary. But we can fear no violence from one whom we esteem
and respect; and, therefore, to deprive the head of its accustomed
protection, is to give an evidence of our unlimited confidence in the person
to whom the gesture is made.
The rite of discalceation is,
therefore, a symbol of reverence. It signifies, in the language of
symbolism, that the spot which is about to be approached in this humble and
reverential manner is consecrated to some holy purpose.
Now, as to all that has been
said, the intelligent mason will at once see its application to the third
degree. Of all the degrees of Masonry, this is by far the most important and
sublime. The solemn lessons which it teaches, the sacred scene which it
represents, and the impressive ceremonies with which it is conducted, are
all calculated to inspire the mind with feelings of awe and reverence. Into
the holy of holies of the temple, when the ark of the covenant had been
deposited in its appropriate place, and the Shekinah was hovering over it,
the high priest alone, and on one day only in the whole year, was permitted,
after the most careful purification, to enter with bare feet, and to
pronounce, with fearful veneration, the tetragrammaton or omnific word.
And into the Master Mason's
lodge—this holy of holies of the masonic temple, where the solemn truths of
death and immortality are inculcated—the aspirant, on entering, should
purify his heart from every contamination, and remember, with a due sense of
their symbolic application, those words that once broke upon the astonished
ears of the old patriarch, "Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the
place whereon thou standest is holy ground."
The Rite of Investiture.
symbolism, of still more importance and interest, is the rite of
The rite of investiture,
called, in the colloquially technical language of the order, the ceremony
of clothing, brings us at once to the consideration of that well-known
symbol of Freemasonry, the LAMB-SKIN APRON.
This rite of investiture, or
the placing upon the aspirant some garment, as an indication of his
appropriate preparation for the ceremonies in which he was about to engage,
prevailed in all the ancient initiations. A few of them only it will be
requisite to consider.
Thus in the Levitical economy
of the Israelites the priests always wore the abnet, or linen apron, or
girdle, as a part of the investiture of the priesthood. This, with the other
garments, was to be worn, as the text expresses it, "for glory and for
beauty," or, as it has been explained by a learned commentator, "as
emblematical of that holiness and purity which ever characterize the divine
nature, and the worship which is worthy of him."
In the Persian Mysteries of
Mithras, the candidate, having first received light, was invested with a
girdle, a crown or mitre, a purple tunic, and, lastly, a white apron.
In the initiations practised
in Hindostan, in the ceremony of investiture was substituted the sash, or
sacred zennaar, consisting of a cord, composed of nine threads twisted into
a knot at the end, and hanging from the left shoulder to the right hip. This
was, perhaps, the type of the masonic scarf, which is, or ought to be,
always worn in the same position.
The Jewish sect of the
Essenes, who approached nearer than any other secret institution of
antiquity to Freemasonry in their organization, always invested their
novices with a white robe.
And, lastly, in the
Scandinavian rites, where the military genius of the people had introduced a
warlike species of initiation, instead of the apron we find the candidate
receiving a white shield, which was, however, always presented with the
accompaniment of some symbolic instruction, not very dissimilar to that
which is connected with the masonic apron.
In all these modes of
investiture, no matter what was the material or the form, the symbolic
signification intended to be conveyed was that of purity.
And hence, in Freemasonry,
the same symbolism is communicated by the apron, which, because it is the
first gift which the aspirant receives,—the first symbol in which he is
instructed,—has been called the "badge of a mason." And most appropriately
has it been so called; for, whatever may be the future advancement of the
candidate in the "Royal Art," into whatever deeper arcana his devotion to
the mystic institution or his thirst for knowledge may carry him, with the
apron—his first investiture—he never parts. Changing, perhaps, its form and
its decorations, and conveying at each step some new and beautiful allusion,
its substance is still there, and it continues to claim the honorable title
by which it was first made known to him on the night of his initiation.
The apron derives its
significance, as the symbol of purity, from two sources—from its color and
from its material. In each of these points of view it is, then, to be
considered, before its symbolism can be properly appreciated.
And, first, the color of the
apron must be an unspotted white. This color has, in all ages, been esteemed
an emblem of innocence and purity. It was with reference to this symbolism
that a portion of the vestments of the Jewish priesthood was directed to be
made white. And hence Aaron was commanded, when he entered into the holy of
holies to make an expiation for the sins of the people, to appear clothed in
white linen, with his linen apron, or girdle, about his loins. It is worthy
of remark that the Hebrew word LABAN, which signifies to make white,
denotes also to purify; and hence we find, throughout the Scriptures,
many allusions to that color as an emblem of purity. "Though thy sins be as
scarlet," says Isaiah, "they shall be white as snow;" and Jeremiah,
in describing the once innocent condition of Zion, says, "Her Nazarites were
purer than snow; they were whiter than milk."
In the Apocalypse a white
stone was the reward promised by the Spirit to those who overcame; and
in the same mystical book the apostle is instructed to say, that fine linen,
clean and white, is the righteousness of the saints.
In the early ages of the
Christian church a white garment was always placed upon the
catechumen who had been recently baptized, to denote that he had been
cleansed from his former sins, and was thenceforth to lead a life of
innocence and purity. Hence it was presented to him with this appropriate
charge: "Receive the white and undefiled garment, and produce it unspotted
before the tribunal of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you may obtain immortal
The white alb still
constitutes a part of the vestments of the Roman church, and its color is
said by Bishop England "to excite to piety by teaching us the purity of
heart and body which we should possess in being present at the holy
The heathens paid the same
attention to the symbolic signification of this color. The Egyptians, for
instance, decorated the head of their principal deity, Osiris, with a white
tiara, and the priests wore robes of the whitest linen.
In the school of Pythagoras,
the sacred hymns were chanted by the disciples clothed in garments of white.
The Druids gave white vestments to those of their initiates who had arrived
at the ultimate degree, or that of perfection. And this was intended,
according to their ritual, to teach the aspirant that none were admitted to
that honor but such as were cleansed from all impurities, both of body and
In all the Mysteries and
religions rites of the other nations of antiquity the same use of white
garments was observed.
Portal, in his "Treatise on
Symbolic Colors," says that "white, the symbol of the divinity and of the
priesthood, represents divine wisdom; applied to a young girl, it denotes
virginity; to an accused person, innocence; to a judge, justice;" and he
adds—what in reference to its use in Masonry will be peculiarly
appropriate—that, "as a characteristic sign of purity, it exhibits a promise
of hope after death." We see, therefore, the propriety of adopting this
color in the masonic system as a symbol of purity. This symbolism pervades
the whole of the ritual, from the lowest to the highest degree, wherever
white vestments or white decorations are used.
As to the material of the
apron, this is imperatively required to be of lamb-skin. No other substance,
such as linen, silk, or satin, could be substituted without entirely
destroying the symbolism of the vestment. Now, the lamb has, as the ritual
expresses it, "been, in all ages, deemed an emblem of innocence;" but more
particularly in the Jewish and Christian churches has this symbolism been
observed. Instances of this need hardly be cited. They abound throughout the
Old Testament, where we learn that a lamb was selected by the Israelites for
their sin and burnt offerings, and in the New, where the word lamb is
almost constantly employed as synonymous with innocence. "The paschal lamb,"
says Didron, "which was eaten by the Israelites on the night preceding their
departure, is the type of that other divine Lamb, of whom Christians are to
partake at Easter, in order thereby to free themselves from the bondage in
which they are held by vice." The paschal lamb, a lamb bearing a cross, was,
therefore, from an early period, depicted by the Christians as referring to
Christ crucified, "that spotless Lamb of God, who was slain from the
foundation of the world."
The material, then, of the
apron, unites with its color to give to the investiture of a mason the
symbolic signification of purity. This, then, together with the fact which I
have already shown, that the ceremony of investiture was common to all the
ancient religious rites, will form another proof of the identity of origin
between these and the masonic institution.
This symbolism also indicates
the sacred and religious character which its founders sought to impose upon
Freemasonry, and to which both the moral and physical qualifications of our
candidates undoubtedly have a reference, since it is with the masonic lodge
as it was with the Jewish church, where it was declared that "no man that
had a blemish should come nigh unto the altar;" and with the heathen
priesthood, among whom we are told that it was thought to be a dishonor to
the gods to be served by any one that was maimed, lame, or in any other way
imperfect; and with both, also, in requiring that no one should approach the
sacred things who was not pure and uncorrupt.
The pure, unspotted lamb-skin
apron is, then, in Masonry, symbolic of that perfection of body and purity
of mind which are essential qualifications in all who would participate in
its sacred mysteries.
The Symbolism of the Gloves.
The investiture with the
gloves is very closely connected with the investiture with the apron, and
the consideration of the symbolism of the one naturally follows the
consideration of the symbolism of the other.
In the continental rites of
Masonry, as practised in France, in Germany, and in other countries of
Europe, it is an invariable custom to present the newly-initiated candidate
not only, as we do, with a white leather apron, but also with two pairs of
white kid gloves, one a man's pair for himself, and the other a woman's, to
be presented by him in turn to his wife or his betrothed, according to the
custom of the German masons, or, according to the French, to the female whom
he most esteems, which, indeed, amounts, or should amount, to the same
There is in this, of course,
as there is in everything else which pertains to Freemasonry, a symbolism.
The gloves given to the candidate for himself are intended to teach him that
the acts of a mason should be as pure and spotless as the gloves now given
to him. In the German lodges, the word used for acts is of course
handlungen, or handlings, "the works of his hands," which makes
the symbolic idea more impressive.
Dr. Robert Plott—no friend of
Masonry, but still an historian of much research—says, in his "Natural
History of Staffordshire," that the Society of Freemasons, in his time (and
he wrote in 1660), presented their candidates with gloves for themselves and
their wives. This shows that the custom still preserved on the continent of
Europe was formerly practised in England, although there as well as in
America, it is discontinued, which is, perhaps, to be regretted.
But although the presentation
of the gloves to the candidate is no longer practised as a ceremony in
England or America, yet the use of them as a part of the proper professional
clothing of a mason in the duties of the lodge, or in processions, is still
retained, and in many well-regulated lodges the members are almost as
regularly clothed in their white gloves as in their white aprons.
The symbolism of the gloves,
it will be admitted, is, in fact, but a modification of that of the apron.
They both signify the same thing; both are allusive to a purification of
life. "Who shall ascend," says the Psalmist, "into the hill of the Lord? or
who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands and a pure
heart." The apron may be said to refer to the "pure heart," the gloves to
the "clean hands." Both are significant of purification—of that purification
which was always symbolized by the ablution which preceded the ancient
initiations into the sacred Mysteries. But while our American and English
masons have adhered only to the apron, and rejected the gloves as a Masonic
symbol, the latter appear to be far more important in symbolic science,
because the allusions to pure or clean hands are abundant in all the ancient
"Hands," says Wemyss, in his
"Clavis Symbolica," "are the symbols of human actions; pure hands are pure
actions; unjust hands are deeds of injustice." There are numerous references
in sacred and profane writers to this symbolism. The washing of the hands
has the outward sign of an internal purification. Hence the Psalmist says,
"I will wash my hands in innocence, and I will encompass thine altar,
In the ancient Mysteries the
washing of the hands was always an introductory ceremony to the initiation,
and, of course, it was used symbolically to indicate the necessity of purity
from crime as a qualification of those who sought admission into the sacred
rites; and hence on a temple in the Island of Crete this inscription was
placed: "Cleanse your feet, wash your hands, and then enter."
Indeed, the washing of hands,
as symbolic of purity, was among the ancients a peculiarly religious rite.
No one dared to pray to the gods until he had cleansed his hands. Thus Homer
makes Hector say,—
"Χερσὶ δ' ἀνίπτοισιν
Διῒλείβειν Ἃζομαι."—Iliad, vi. 266.
"I dread with unwashed
hands to bring
My incensed wine to Jove an offering."
In a similar spirit of
religion, Æneas, when leaving burning Troy, refuses to enter the temple of
Ceres until his hands, polluted by recent strife, had been washed in the
"Me bello e tanto digressum
et cæde recenti,
Attrectare nefas, donec me flumine vivo
Abluero."—Æn. ii. 718.
"In me, now fresh from war
and recent strife,
'Tis impious the sacred things to touch
Till in the living stream myself I bathe."
The same practice prevailed
among the Jews, and a striking instance of the symbolism is exhibited in
that well-known action of Pilate, who, when the Jews clamored for Jesus,
that they might crucify him, appeared before the people, and, having taken
water, washed his hands, saying at the same time, "I am innocent of the
blood of this just man. See ye to it." In the Christian church of the middle
ages, gloves were always worn by bishops or priests when in the performance
of ecclesiastical functions. They were made of linen, and were white; and
Durandus, a celebrated ritualist, says that "by the white gloves were
denoted chastity and purity, because the hands were thus kept clean and free
from all impurity."
There is no necessity to
extend examples any further. There is no doubt that the use of the gloves in
Masonry is a symbolic idea borrowed from the ancient and universal language
of symbolism, and was intended, like the apron, to denote the necessity of
purity of life.
We have thus traced the
gloves and the apron to the same symbolic source. Let us see if we cannot
also derive them from the same historic origin.
The apron evidently owes its
adoption in Freemasonry to the use of that necessary garment by the
operative masons of the middle ages. It is one of the most positive
evidences—indeed we may say, absolutely, the most tangible evidence—of the
derivation of our speculative science from an operative art. The builders,
who associated in companies, who traversed Europe, and were engaged in the
construction of palaces and cathedrals, have left to us, as their
descendants, their name, their technical language, and that distinctive
piece of clothing by which they protected their garments from the pollutions
of their laborious employment. Did they also bequeath to us their gloves?
This is a question which some modern discoveries will at last enable us to
M. Didron, in his "Annales
Archeologiques," presents us with an engraving, copied from the painted
glass of a window in the cathedral of Chartres, in France. The painting was
executed in the thirteenth century, and represents a number of operative
masons at work. Three of them are adorned with laurel crowns. May not
these be intended to represent the three officers of a lodge? All of the
Masons wear gloves. M. Didron remarks that in the old documents which he has
examined, mention is often made of gloves which are intended to be presented
to masons and stone-cutters. In a subsequent number of the "Annales," he
gives the following three examples of this fact:—
In the year 1331, the
Chatelan of Villaines, in Duemois, bought a considerable quantity of gloves,
to be given to the workmen, in order, as it is said, "to shield their hands
from the stone and lime."
In October, 1383, as he
learns from a document of that period, three dozen pairs of gloves were
bought and distributed to the masons when they commenced the buildings at
the Chartreuse of Dijon.
And, lastly, in 1486 or 1487,
twenty-two pair of gloves were given to the masons and stone-cutters who
were engaged in work at the city of Amiens.
It is thus evident that the
builders—the operative masons—of the middle ages wore gloves to protect
their hands from the effects of their work. It is equally evident that the
speculative masons have received from their operative predecessors the
gloves as well as the apron, both of which, being used by the latter for
practical uses, have been, in the spirit of symbolism, appropriated by the
former to "a more noble and glorious purpose."
The Rite of Circumambulation.
The rite of
circumambulation will supply us with another ritualistic symbol, in
which we may again trace the identity of the origin of Freemasonry with that
of the religious and mystical ceremonies of the ancients.
"Circumambulation" is the
name given by sacred archaeologists to that religious rite in the ancient
initiations which consisted in a formal procession around the altar, or
other holy and consecrated object.
The prevalence of this rite
among the ancients appears to have been universal, and it originally (as I
shall have occasion to show) alluded to the apparent course of the sun in
the firmament, which is from east to west by the way of the south.
In ancient Greece, when the
priests were engaged in the rites of sacrifice, they and the people always
walked three times around the altar while chanting a sacred hymn or ode.
Sometimes, while the people stood around the altar, the rite of
circumambulation was performed by the priest alone, who, turning towards the
right hand, went around it, and sprinkled it with meal and holy water. In
making this circumambulation, it was considered absolutely necessary that
the right side should always be next to the altar, and consequently, that
the procession should move from the east to the south, then to the west,
next to the north, and afterwards to the east again. It was in this way that
the apparent revolution was represented.
This ceremony the Greeks
called moving εϗ δεξια εν δεξια, from the right to the right, which
was the direction of the motion, and the Romans applied to it the term
dextrovorsum, or dextrorsum, which signifies the same thing. Thus
Plautus makes Palinurus, a character in his comedy of "Curculio," say, "If
you would do reverence to the gods, you must turn to the right hand."
Gronovius, in commenting on this passage of Plautus, says, "In worshipping
and praying to the gods they were accustomed to turn to the right hand."
A hymn of Callimachus has
been preserved, which is said to have been chanted by the priests of Apollo
at Delos, while performing this ceremony of circumambulation, the substance
of which is, "We imitate the example of the sun, and follow his benevolent
It will be observed that this
circumambulation around the altar was accompanied by the singing or chanting
of a sacred ode. Of the three parts of the ode, the strophe, the
antistrophe, and the epode, each was to be sung at a particular
part of the procession. The analogy between this chanting of an ode by the
ancients and the recitation of a passage of Scripture in the masonic
circumambulation, will be at once apparent.
Among the Romans, the
ceremony of circumambulation was always used in the rites of sacrifice, of
expiation or purification. Thus Virgil describes Corynasus as purifying his
companions, at the funeral of Misenus, by passing three times around them
while aspersing them with the lustral waters; and to do so conveniently, it
was necessary that he should have moved with his right hand towards them.
"Idem ter socios pura
Spargens rore levi et ramo felicis olivæ."
Æn. vi. 229.
"Thrice with pure water
compassed he the crew,
Sprinkling, with olive branch, the gentle dew."
In fact, so common was it to
unite the ceremony of circumambulation with that of expiation or
purification, or, in other words, to make a circuitous procession, in
performing the latter rite, that the term lustrare, whose primitive
meaning is "to purify," came at last to be synonymous with circuire,
to walk round anything; and hence a purification and a circumambulation were
often expressed by the same word.
Among the Hindoos, the same
rite of circumambulation has always been practised. As an instance, we may
cite the ceremonies which are to be performed by a Brahmin upon first rising
from bed in the morning, an accurate account of which has been given by Mr.
Colebrooke in the "Asiatic Researches." The priest, having first adored the
sun while directing his face to the east, then walks towards the west by the
way of the south, saying, at the same time, "I follow the course of the
sun," which he thus explains: "As the sun in his course moves round the
world by the way of the south, so do I follow that luminary, to obtain the
benefit arising from a journey round the earth by the way of the south."
Lastly, I may refer to the
preservation of this rite among the Druids, whose "mystical dance" around
the cairn, or sacred stones, was nothing more nor less than the rite
of circumambulation. On these occasions the priest always made three
circuits, from east to west, by the right hand, around the altar or cairn,
accompanied by all the worshippers. And so sacred was the rite once
considered, that we learn from Toland94
that in the Scottish Isles, once a principal seat of the Druidical religion,
the people "never come to the ancient sacrificing and fire-hallowing
cairns, but they walk three times around them, from east to west,
according to the course of the sun." This sanctified tour, or round by the
south, he observes, is called Deiseal, as the contrary, or unhallowed
one by the north, is called Tuapholl. And he further remarks, that
this word Deiseal was derived "from Deas, the right
(understanding hand) and soil, one of the ancient names of the
sun, the right hand in this round being ever next the heap."
I might pursue these
researches still further, and trace this rite of circumambulation to other
nations of antiquity; but I conceive that enough has been said to show its
universality, as well as the tenacity with which the essential ceremony of
performing the motion a mystical number of times, and always by the right
hand, from the east, through the south, to the west, was preserved. And I
think that this singular analogy to the same rite in Freemasonry must lead
us to the legitimate conclusion, that the common source of all these rites
is to be found in the identical origin of the Spurious Freemasonry or pagan
mysteries, and the pure, Primitive Freemasonry, from which the former
seceded only to be deteriorated.
In reviewing what has been
said on this subject, it will at once be perceived that the essence of the
ancient rite consisted in making the circumambulation around the altar, from
the east to the south, from the south to the west, thence to the north, and
to the east again.
Now, in this the masonic rite
of circumambulation strictly agrees with the ancient one.
But this circuit by the right
hand, it is admitted, was done as a representation of the sun's motion. It
was a symbol of the sun's apparent course around the earth.
And so, then, here again we
have in Masonry that old and often-repeated allusion to sun-worship, which
has already been seen in the officers of a lodge, and in the point within a
circle. And as the circumambulation is made around the lodge, just as the
sun was supposed to move around the earth, we are brought back to the
original symbolism with which we commenced—that the lodge is a symbol of the
The Rite of Intrusting, and the Symbolism of Light.
The rite of intrusting,
to which we are now to direct our attention, will supply us with many
important and interesting symbols.
There is an important period
in the ceremony of masonic initiation, when the candidate is about to
receive a full communication of the mysteries through which he has passed,
and to which the trials and labors which he has undergone can only entitle
him. This ceremony is technically called the "rite of intrusting,"
because it is then that the aspirant begins to be intrusted with that for
the possession of which he was seeking.95
It is equivalent to what, in the ancient Mysteries, was called the
or the seeing of what only the initiated were permitted to behold.
This rite of intrusting
is, of course, divided into several parts or periods; for the aporreta,
or secret things of Masonry, are not to be given at once, but in gradual
progression. It begins, however, with the communication of LIGHT, which,
although but a preparation for the development of the mysteries which are to
follow, must be considered as one of the most important symbols in the whole
science of masonic symbolism. So important, indeed, is it, and so much does
it pervade with its influence and its relations the whole masonic system,
that Freemasonry itself anciently received, among other appellations, that
of Lux, or Light, to signify that it is to be regarded as that sublime
doctrine of Divine Truth by which the path of him who has attained it is to
be illuminated in his pilgrimage of life.
The Hebrew cosmogonist
commences his description of the creation by the declaration that "God said,
Let there be light, and there was light"—a phrase which, in the more
emphatic form that it has received in the original language of "Be light,
and light was," 97
is said to have won the praise, for its sublimity, of the greatest of
Grecian critics. "The singularly emphatic summons," says a profound modern
which light is called into existence, is probably owing to the preëminent
utility and glory of that element, together with its mysterious nature,
which made it seem as
'The God of this new
and won for it the earliest
adoration of mankind."
Light was, in accordance with
this old religious sentiment, the great object of attainment in all the
ancient religious Mysteries. It was there, as it is now, in Masonry, made
the symbol of truth and knowledge. This was always its ancient
symbolism, and we must never lose sight of this emblematic meaning, when we
are considering the nature and signification of masonic light. When the
candidate makes a demand for light, it is not merely for that material light
which is to remove a physical darkness; that is only the outward form, which
conceals the inward symbolism. He craves an intellectual illumination which
will dispel the darkness of mental and moral ignorance, and bring to his
view, as an eye-witness, the sublime truths of religion, philosophy, and
science, which it is the great design of Freemasonry to teach.
In all the ancient systems
this reverence for light, as the symbol of truth, was predominant. In the
Mysteries of every nation, the candidate was made to pass, during his
initiation, through scenes of utter darkness, and at length terminated his
trials by an admission to the splendidly-illuminated sacellum, or sanctuary,
where he was said to have attained pure and perfect light, and where he
received the necessary instructions which were to invest him with that
knowledge of the divine truth which it had been the object of all his labors
to gain, and the design of the institution, into which he had been
initiated, to bestow.
became synonymous with truth and knowledge, and darkness with
falsehood and ignorance. We shall find this symbolism pervading not only the
institutions, but the very languages, of antiquity.
Thus, among the Hebrews, the
word AUR, in the singular, signified light, but in the plural, AURIM,
it denoted the revelation of the divine will; and the aurim and
thummim, literally the lights and truths, constituted a
part of the breastplate whence the high priest obtained oracular responses
to the questions which he proposed.99
There is a peculiarity about
the word "light," in the old Egyptian language, which is well worth
consideration in this connection. Among the Egyptians, the hare was
the hieroglyphic of eyes that are open; and it was adopted because
that timid animal was supposed never to close his organs of vision, being
always on the watch for his enemies. The hare was afterwards adopted by the
priests as a symbol of the mental illumination or mystic light which was
revealed to the neophytes, in the contemplation of divine truth, during the
progress of their initiation; and hence, according to Champollion, the hare
was also the symbol of Osiris, their chief god; thus showing the intimate
connection which they believed to exist between the process of initiation
into their sacred rites and the contemplation of the divine nature. But the
Hebrew word for hare is ARNaBeT. Now, this is compounded of the two words
AUR, light, and NaBaT, to behold, and therefore the word which
in the Egyptian denoted initiation, in the Hebrew signified to
behold the light. In two nations so intimately connected in history as
the Hebrew and the Egyptian, such a coincidence could not have been
accidental. It shows the prevalence of the sentiment, at that period, that
the communication of light was the prominent design of the Mysteries—so
prominent that the one was made the synonyme of the other.100
The worship of light, either
in its pure essence or in the forms of sun-worship and fire-worship, because
the sun and the fire were causes of light, was among the earliest and most
universal superstitions of the world. Light was considered as the primordial
source of all that was holy and intelligent; and darkness, as its opposite,
was viewed as but another name for evil and ignorance. Dr. Beard, in an
article on this subject, in Kitto's Cyclopaedia of Biblical Literature,
attributes this view of the divine nature of light, which was entertained by
the nations of the East, to the fact that, in that part of the world, light
"has a clearness and brilliancy, is accompanied by an intensity of heat, and
is followed in its influence by a largeness of good, of which the
inhabitants of less genial climates have no conception. Light easily and
naturally became, in consequence, with Orientals, a representative of the
highest human good. All the more joyous emotions of the mind, all the
pleasing sensations of the frame, all the happy hours of domestic
intercourse, were described under imagery derived from light. The transition
was natural—from earthly to heavenly, from corporeal to spiritual things;
and so light came to typify true religion and the felicity which it imparts.
But as light not only came from God, but also makes man's way clear before
him, so it was employed to signify moral truth, and preëminently that divine
system of truth which is set forth in the Bible, from its earliest gleamings
onward to the perfect day of the Great Sun of Righteousness."
I am inclined to believe that
in this passage the learned author has erred, not in the definition of the
symbol, but in his deduction of its origin. Light became the object of
religious veneration, not because of the brilliancy and clearness of a
particular sky, nor the warmth and genial influence of a particular
climate,—for the worship was universal, in Scandinavia as in India,—but
because it was the natural and inevitable result of the worship of the sun,
the chief deity of Sabianism—a faith which pervaded to an extraordinary
extent the whole religious sentiment of antiquity.101
Light was venerated because
it was an emanation from the sun, and, in the materialism of the ancient
faith, light and darkness were both personified as positive
existences, the one being the enemy of the other. Two principles were thus
supposed to reign over the world, antagonistic to each other, and each
alternately presiding over the destinies of mankind.102
The contests between the good
and evil principle, symbolized by light and darkness, composed a very large
part of the ancient mythology in all countries.
Among the Egyptians, Osiris
was light, or the sun; and his arch-enemy, Typhon, who ultimately destroyed
him, was the representative of darkness.
Zoroaster, the father of the
ancient Persian religion, taught the same doctrine, and called the principle
of light, or good, Ormuzd, and the principle of darkness, or evil, Ahriman.
The former, born of the purest light, and the latter, sprung from utter
darkness, are, in this mythology, continually making war on each other.
Manes, or Manichaeus, the
founder of the sect of Manichees, in the third century, taught that there
are two principles from which all things proceed; the one is a pure and
subtile matter, called Light, and the other a gross and corrupt substance,
called Darkness. Each of these is subject to the dominion of a
superintending being, whose existence is from all eternity. The being who
presides over the light is called God; he that rules over the
darkness is called Hyle, or Demon. The ruler of the light is
supremely happy, good, and benevolent, while the ruler over darkness is
unhappy, evil, and malignant.
Pythagoras also maintained
this doctrine of two antagonistic principles. He called the one, unity,
light, the right hand, equality, stability, and a straight line; the
other he named binary, darkness, the left hand, inequality,
instability, and a curved line. Of the colors, he attributed white to the
good principle, and black to the evil one.
The Cabalists gave a
prominent place to light in their system of cosmogony. They taught that,
before the creation of the world, all space was filled with what they called
Aur en soph, or the Eternal Light, and that when the Divine
Mind determined or willed the production of Nature, the Eternal Light
withdrew to a central point, leaving around it an empty space, in which the
process of creation went on by means of emanations from the central mass of
light. It is unnecessary to enter into the Cabalistic account of creation;
it is sufficient here to remark that all was done through the mediate
influence of the Aur en soph, or eternal light, which produces coarse
matter, but one degree above nonentity, only when it becomes so attenuated
as to be lost in darkness.
The Brahminical doctrine was,
that "light and darkness are esteemed the world's eternal ways; he who
walketh in the former returneth not; that is to say, he goeth to eternal
bliss; whilst he who walketh in the latter cometh back again upon earth,"
and is thus destined to pass through further transmigrations, until his soul
is perfectly purified by light.103
In all the ancient systems of
initiation the candidate was shrouded in darkness, as a preparation for the
reception of light. The duration varied in the different rites. In the
Celtic Mysteries of Druidism, the period in which the aspirant was immersed
in darkness was nine days and nights; among the Greeks, at Eleusis, it was
three times as long; and in the still severer rites of Mithras, in Persia,
fifty days of darkness, solitude, and fasting were imposed upon the
adventurous neophyte, who, by these excessive trials, was at length entitled
to the full communication of the light of knowledge.
Thus it will be perceived
that the religious sentiment of a good and an evil principle gave to
darkness, in the ancient symbolism, a place equally as prominent as that of
The same religious sentiment
of the ancients, modified, however, in its details, by our better knowledge
of divine things, has supplied Freemasonry with a double symbolism—that of
Light and Darkness.
Darkness is the symbol of
initiation. It is intended to remind the candidate of his ignorance, which
Masonry is to enlighten; of his evil nature, which Masonry is to purify; of
the world, in whose obscurity he has been wandering, and from which Masonry
is to rescue him.
Light, on the other hand, is
the symbol of the autopsy, the sight of the mysteries, the intrusting, the
full fruition of masonic truth and knowledge.
Initiation precedes the
communication of knowledge in Masonry, as darkness preceded light in the old
cosmogonies. Thus, in Genesis, we see that in the beginning "the world was
without form, and void, and darkness was on the face of the deep." The
Chaldean cosmogony taught that in the beginning "all was darkness and
water." The Phoenicians supposed that "the beginning of all things was a
wind of black air, and a chaos dark as Erebus."
But out of all this darkness
sprang forth light, at the divine command, and the sublime phrase, "Let
there be light," is repeated, in some substantially identical form, in all
the ancient histories of creation.
So, too, out of the
mysterious darkness of Masonry comes the full blaze of masonic light. One
must precede the other, as the evening preceded the morning. "So the evening
and the morning were the first day."
This thought is preserved in
the great motto of the Order, "Lux e tenebris"—Light out of darkness.
It is equivalent to this other sentence: Truth out of initiation. Lux,
or light, is truth; tenebrae, or darkness, is initiation.
It is a beautiful and
instructive portion of our symbolism, this connection of darkness and light,
and well deserves a further investigation.
"Genesis and the
cosmogonies," says Portal, "mention the antagonism of light and darkness.
The form of this fable varies according to each nation, but the foundation
is everywhere the same. Under the symbol of the creation of the world it
presents the picture of regeneration and initiation."
Plutarch says that to die is
to be initiated into the greater Mysteries; and the Greek word τελευτᾷν,
which signifies to die, means also to be initiated. But black,
which is the symbolic color of darkness, is also the symbol of death. And
hence, again, darkness, like death, is the symbol of initiation. It was for
this reason that all the ancient initiations were performed at night. The
celebration of the Mysteries was always nocturnal. The same custom prevails
in Freemasonry, and the explanation is the same. Death and the resurrection
were taught in the Mysteries, as they are in Freemasonry. The initiation was
the lesson of death. The full fruition or autopsy, the reception of light,
was the lesson of regeneration or resurrection.
Light is, therefore, a
fundamental symbol in Freemasonry. It is, in fact, the first important
symbol that is presented to the neophyte in his instructions, and contains
within itself the very essence of Speculative Masonry, which is nothing more
than the contemplation of intellectual light or truth.106
Symbolism of the Corner-Stone.
We come next, in a due order
of precedence, to the consideration of the symbolism connected with an
important ceremony in the ritual of the first degree of Masonry, which
refers to the north-east corner of the lodge. In this ceremony the candidate
becomes the representative of a spiritual corner-stone. And hence, to
thoroughly comprehend the true meaning of the emblematic ceremony, it is
essential that we should investigate the symbolism of the corner-stone.
as the foundation on which the entire building is supposed to rest, is, of
course, the most important stone in the whole edifice. It is, at least, so
considered by operative masons. It is laid with impressive ceremonies; the
assistance of speculative masons is often, and always ought to be, invited,
to give dignity to the occasion; and the event is viewed by the workmen as
an important era in the construction of the edifice.108
In the rich imagery of
Orientalism, the corner-stone is frequently referred to as the appropriate
symbol of a chief or prince who is the defence and bulwark of his people,
and more particularly in Scripture, as denoting that promised Messiah who
was to be the sure prop and support of all who should put their trust in his
To the various properties
that are necessary to constitute a true corner-stone,—its firmness and
durability, its perfect form, and its peculiar position as the connecting
link between the walls,—we must attribute the important character that it
has assumed in the language of symbolism. Freemasonry, which alone, of all
existing institutions, has preserved this ancient and universal language,
could not, as it may well be supposed, have neglected to adopt the
corner-stone among its most cherished and impressive symbols; and hence it
has referred to it many of its most significant lessons of morality and
I have already alluded to
that peculiar mode of masonic symbolism by which the speculative mason is
supposed to be engaged in the construction of a spiritual temple, in
imitation of, or, rather, in reference to, that material one which was
erected by his operative predecessors at Jerusalem. Let us again, for a few
moments, direct our attention to this important fact, and revert to the
connection which originally existed between the operative and speculative
divisions of Freemasonry. This is an essential introduction to any inquiry
into the symbolism of the corner-stone.
The difference between
operative and speculative Masonry is simply this—that while the former was
engaged in the construction of a material temple, formed, it is true, of the
most magnificent materials which the quarries of Palestine, the mountains of
Lebanon, and the golden shores of Ophir could contribute, the latter
occupies itself in the erection of a spiritual house,—a house not made with
hands,—in which, for stones and cedar, and gold and precious stones, are
substituted the virtues of the heart, the pure emotions of the soul, the
warm affections gushing forth from the hidden fountains of the spirit, so
that the very presence of Jehovah, our Father and our God, shall be
enshrined within us as his Shekinah was in the holy of holies of the
material temple at Jerusalem.
The Speculative Mason, then,
if he rightly comprehends the scope and design of his profession, is
occupied, from his very first admission into the order until the close of
his labors and his life,—and the true mason's labor ends only with his
life,—in the construction, the adornment, and the completion of this
spiritual temple of his body. He lays its foundation in a firm belief and an
unshaken confidence in the wisdom, power, and goodness of God. This is his
first step. Unless his trust is in God, and in him only, he can advance no
further than the threshold of initiation. And then he prepares his materials
with the gauge and gavel of Truth, raises the walls by the plumb-line of
Rectitude, squares his work with the square of Virtue, connects the whole
with the cement of Brotherly Love, and thus skilfullv erects the living
edifice of thoughts, and words, and deeds, in accordance with the designs
laid down by the Master Architect of the universe in the great Book of
The aspirant for masonic
light—the Neophyte—on his first entrance within our sacred porch, prepares
himself for this consecrated labor of erecting within his own bosom a fit
dwelling-place for the Divine Spirit, and thus commences the noble work by
becoming himself the corner-stone on which this spiritual edifice is to be
Here, then, is the beginning
of the symbolism of the corner-stone; and it is singularly curious to
observe how every portion of the archetype has been made to perform its
appropriate duty in thoroughly carrying out the emblematic allusions.
As, for example, this
symbolic reference of the corner-stone of a material edifice to a mason,
when, at his first initiation, he commences the intellectual task of
erecting a spiritual temple in his heart, is beautifully sustained in the
allusions to all the various parts and qualities which are to be found in a
"well-formed, true and trusty" corner-stone.110
Its form and substance are both seized by the comprehensive grasp of the
Let us trace this symbolism
in its minute details. And, first, as to the form of the corner-stone.
The corner-stone of an
edifice must be perfectly square on its surfaces, lest, by a violation of
this true geometric figure, the walls to be erected upon it should deviate
from the required line of perpendicularity which can alone give strength and
proportion to the building.
Perfectly square on its
surfaces, it is, in its form and solid contents, a cube. Now, the square and
the cube are both important and significant symbols.
The square is an emblem of
morality, or the strict performance of every duty.111
Among the Greeks, who were a highly poetical and imaginative people, the
square was deemed a figure of perfection, and the ἀνὴρ τετράγωνος—"the
square or cubical man," as the words may be translated—was a term used to
designate a man of unsullied integrity. Hence one of their most eminent
has said that "he who valiantly sustains the shocks of adverse fortune,
demeaning himself uprightly, is truly good and of a square posture, without
reproof; and he who would assume such a square posture should often subject
himself to the perfectly square test of justice and integrity."
The cube, in the language of
symbolism, denotes truth.113
Among the pagan mythologists, Mercury, or Hermes, was always represented by
a cubical stone, because he was the type of truth,114
and the same form was adopted by the Israelites in the construction of the
tabernacle, which was to be the dwelling-place of divine truth.
And, then, as to its
material: This, too, is an essential element of all symbolism. Constructed
of a material finer and more polished than that which constitutes the
remainder of the edifice, often carved with appropriate devices and fitted
for its distinguished purpose by the utmost skill of the sculptor's art, it
becomes the symbol of that beauty of holiness with which the Hebrew Psalmist
has said that we are to worship Jehovah.115
The ceremony, then, of the
north-east corner of the lodge, since it derives all its typical value from
this symbolism of the corner-stone, was undoubtedly intended to portray, in
this consecrated language, the necessity of integrity and stability of
conduct, of truthfulness and uprightness of character, and of purity and
holiness of life, which, just at that time and in that place, the candidate
is most impressively charged to maintain.
But there is also a symbolism
about the position of the corner-stone, which is well worthy of attention.
It is familiar to every one,—even to those who are without the pale of
initiation,—that the custom of laying the corner-stones of public buildings
has always been performed by the masonic order with peculiar and impressive
ceremonies, and that this stone is invariably deposited in the north-east
corner of the foundation of the intended structure. Now, the question
naturally suggests itself, Whence does this ancient and invariable usage
derive its origin? Why may not the stone be deposited in any other corner or
portion of the edifice, as convenience or necessity may dictate? The custom
of placing the foundation-stone in the north-east corner must have been
originally adopted for some good and sufficient reason; for we have a right
to suppose that it was not an arbitrary selection.116
Was it in reference to the ceremony which takes place in the lodge? Or is
that in reference to the position of the material stone? No matter which has
the precedence in point of time, the principle is the same. The position of
the stone in the north-east corner of the building is altogether symbolic,
and the symbolism exclusively alludes to certain doctrines which are taught
in the speculative science of Masonry.
The interpretation, I
conceive, is briefly this: Every Speculative Mason is familiar with the fact
that the east, as the source of material light, is a symbol of his own
order, which professes to contain within its bosom the pure light of truth.
As, in the physical world, the morning of each day is ushered into existence
by the reddening dawn of the eastern sky, whence the rising sun dispenses
his illuminating and prolific rays to every portion of the visible horizon,
warming the whole earth with his embrace of light, and giving new-born life
and energy to flower and tree, and beast and man, who, at the magic touch,
awake from the sleep of darkness, so in the moral world, when intellectual
night was, in the earliest days, brooding over the world, it was from the
ancient priesthood living in the east that those lessons of God, of nature,
and of humanity first emanated, which, travelling westward, revealed to man
his future destiny, and his dependence on a superior power. Thus every new
and true doctrine, coming from these "wise men of the east," was, as it
were, a new day arising, and dissipating the clouds of intellectual darkness
and error. It was a universal opinion among the ancients that the first
learning came from the east; and the often-quoted line of Bishop Berkeley,
"Westward the course of
empire takes its way"—
is but the modern utterance
of an ancient thought, for it was always believed that the empire of truth
and knowledge was advancing from the east to the west.
Again: the north, as the
point in the horizon which is most remote from the vivifying rays of the sun
when at his meridian height, has, with equal metaphorical propriety, been
called the place of darkness, and is, therefore, symbolic of the profane
world, which has not yet been penetrated and illumined by the intellectual
rays of masonic light. All history concurs in recording the fact that, in
the early ages of the world, its northern portion was enveloped in the most
profound moral and mental darkness. It was from the remotest regions of
Northern Europe that those barbarian hordes "came down like the wolf on the
fold," and devastated the fair plains of the south, bringing with them a
dark curtain of ignorance, beneath whose heavy folds the nations of the
world lay for centuries overwhelmed. The extreme north has ever been,
physically and intellectually, cold, and dark, and dreary. Hence, in
Masonry, the north has ever been esteemed the place of darkness; and, in
obedience to this principle, no symbolic light is allowed to illumine the
northern part of the lodge.
The east, then, is, in
Masonry, the symbol of the order, and the north the symbol of the profane
Now, the spiritual
corner-stone is deposited in the north-east corner of the lodge, because it
is symbolic of the position of the neophyte, or candidate, who represents it
in his relation to the order and to the world. From the profane world he has
just emerged. Some of its imperfections are still upon him; some of its
darkness is still about him; he as yet belongs in part to the north. But he
is striving for light and truth; the pathway upon which he has entered is
directed towards the east. His allegiance, if I may use the word, is
divided. He is not altogether a profane, nor altogether a mason. If he were
wholly in the world, the north would be the place to find him—the north,
which is the reign of darkness. If he were wholly in the order,—a Master
Mason,—the east would have received him—the east, which is the place of
light. But he is neither; he is an Apprentice, with some of the ignorance of
the world cleaving to him, and some of the light of the order beaming upon
him. And hence this divided allegiance—this double character—this mingling
of the departing darkness of the north with the approaching brightness of
the east—is well expressed, in our symbolism, by the appropriate position of
the spiritual corner-stone in the north-east corner of the lodge. One
surface of the stone faces the north, and the other surface faces the east.
It is neither wholly in the one part nor wholly in the other, and in so far
it is a symbol of initiation not fully developed—that which is incomplete
and imperfect, and is, therefore, fitly represented by the recipient of the
first degree, at the very moment of his initiation.117
But the strength and
durability of the corner-stone are also eminently suggestive of symbolic
ideas. To fulfil its design as the foundation and support of the massive
building whose erection it precedes, it should be constructed of a material
which may outlast all other parts of the edifice, so that when that "eternal
ocean whose waves are years" shall have ingulfed all who were present at the
construction of the building in the vast vortex of its ever-flowing current;
and when generation after generation shall have passed away, and the
crumbling stones of the ruined edifice shall begin to attest the power of
time and the evanescent nature of all human undertakings, the corner-stone
will still remain to tell, by its inscriptions, and its form, and its
beauty, to every passer-by, that there once existed in that, perhaps then
desolate, spot, a building consecrated to some noble or some sacred purpose
by the zeal and liberality of men who now no longer live.
So, too, do this permanence
and durability of the corner-stone, in contrast with the decay and ruin of
the building in whose foundations it was placed, remind the mason that when
this earthly house of his tabernacle shall have passed away, he has within
him a sure foundation of eternal life—a corner-stone of immortality—an
emanation from that Divine Spirit which pervades all nature, and which,
therefore, must survive the tomb, and rise, triumphant and eternal, above
the decaying dust of death and the grave.118
It is in this way that the
student of masonic symbolism is reminded by the corner-stone—by its form,
its position, and its permanence—of significant doctrines of duty, and
virtue, and religious truth, which it is the great object of Masonry to
But I have said that the
material corner-stone is deposited in its appropriate place with solemn
rites and ceremonies, for which the order has established a peculiar ritual.
These, too, have a beautiful and significant symbolism, the investigation of
which will next attract our attention.
And here it may be observed,
in passing, that the accompaniment of such an act of consecration to a
particular purpose, with solemn rites and ceremonies, claims our respect,
from the prestige that it has of all antiquity. A learned writer on
symbolism makes, on this subject, the following judicious remarks, which may
be quoted as a sufficient defence of our masonic ceremonies:—
"It has been an opinion,
entertained in all past ages, that by the performance of certain acts,
things, places, and persons acquire a character which they would not have
had without such performances. The reason is plain: certain acts signify
firmness of purpose, which, by consigning the object to the intended use,
gives it, in the public opinion, an accordant character. This is most
especially true of things, places, and persons connected with religion and
religious worship. After the performance of certain acts or rites, they are
held to be altogether different from what they were before; they acquire a
sacred character, and in some instances a character absolutely divine. Such
are the effects imagined to be produced by religious dedication."
The stone, therefore, thus
properly constructed, is, when it is to be deposited by the constituted
authorities of our order, carefully examined with the necessary implements
of operative masonry,—the square, the level, and the plumb,—and declared to
be "well-formed, true, and trusty." This is not a vain nor unmeaning
ceremony. It teaches the mason that his virtues are to be tested by
temptation and trial, by suffering and adversity, before they can be
pronounced by the Master Builder of souls to be materials worthy of the
spiritual building of eternal life, fitted "as living stones, for that house
not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." But if he be faithful, and
withstand these trials,—if he shall come forth from these temptations and
sufferings like pure gold from the refiner's fire,—then, indeed, shall he be
deemed "well-formed, true, and trusty," and worthy to offer "unto the Lord
an offering in righteousness."
In the ceremony of depositing
the corner-stone, the sacred elements of masonic consecration are then
produced, and the stone is solemnly set apart by pouring corn, wine, and oil
upon its surface. Each of these elements has a beautiful significance in our
Collectively, they allude to
the Corn of Nourishment, the Wine of Refreshment, and the Oil of Joy, which
are the promised rewards of a faithful and diligent performance of duty, and
often specifically refer to the anticipated success of the undertaking whose
incipiency they have consecrated. They are, in fact, types and symbols of
all those abundant gifts of Divine Providence for which we are daily called
upon to make an offering of our thanks, and which are enumerated by King
David, in his catalogue of blessings, as "wine that maketh glad the heart of
man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man's
"Wherefore, my brethren,"
says Harris, "do you carry corn, wine, and oil in your processions,
but to remind you that in the pilgrimage of human life you are to impart a
portion of your bread to feed the hungry, to send a cup of your wine to
cheer the sorrowful, and to pour the healing oil of your consolation into
the wounds which sickness hath made in the bodies, or affliction rent in the
hearts, of your fellow-travellers?"
But, individually, each of
these elements of consecration has also an appropriate significance, which
is well worth investigation.
Corn, in the language of
Scripture, is an emblem of the resurrection, and St. Paul, in that eloquent
discourse which is so familiar to all, as a beautiful argument for the great
Christian doctrine of a future life, adduces the seed of grain, which, being
sown, first dieth, and then quickeneth, as the appropriate type of that
corruptible which must put on incorruption, and of that mortal which must
assume immortality. But, in Masonry, the sprig of acacia, for reasons purely
masonic, has been always adopted as the symbol of immortality, and the ear
of corn is appropriated as the symbol of plenty. This is in accordance with
the Hebrew derivation of the word, as well as with the usage of all ancient
nations. The word dagan, דנו which signifies corn, is derived
from the verb dagah, דנה, to increase, to multiply, and in all
the ancient religions the horn or vase, filled with fruits and with grain,
was the recognized symbol of plenty. Hence, as an element of consecration,
corn is intended to remind us of those temporal blessings of life and
health, and comfortable support, which we derive from the Giver of all good,
and to merit which we should strive, with "clean hands and a pure heart," to
erect on the corner-stone of our initiation a spiritual temple, which shall
be adorned with the "beauty of holiness."
Wine is a symbol of that
inward and abiding comfort with which the heart of the man who faithfully
performs his part on the great stage of life is to be refreshed; and as, in
the figurative language of the East, Jacob prophetically promises to Judah,
as his reward, that he shall wash his garments in wine, and his clothes in
the blood of the grape, it seems intended, morally, to remind us of those
immortal refreshments which, when the labors of this earthly lodge are
forever closed, we shall receive in the celestial lodge above, where the
G.A.O.T.U. forever presides.
Oil is a symbol of
prosperity, and happiness, and joy. The custom of anointing every thing or
person destined for a sacred purpose is of venerable antiquity.121
The statues of the heathen deities, as well as the altars on which the
sacrifices were offered to them, and the priests who presided over the
sacred rites, were always anointed with perfumed ointment, as a consecration
of them to the objects of religious worship.
When Jacob set up the stone
on which he had slept in his journey to Padan-aram, and where he was blessed
with the vision of ascending and descending angels, he anointed it with oil,
and thus consecrated it as an altar to God. Such an inunction was, in
ancient times, as it still continues to be in many modern countries and
contemporary religions, a symbol of the setting apart of the thing or person
so anointed and consecrated to a holy purpose.
Hence, then, we are reminded
by this last impressive ceremony, that the cultivation of virtue, the
practice of duty, the resistance of temptation, the submission to suffering,
the devotion to truth, the maintenance of integrity, and all those other
graces by which we strive to fit our bodies, as living stones, for the
spiritual building of eternal life, must, after all, to make the object
effectual and the labor successful, be consecrated by a holy obedience to
God's will and a firm reliance on God's providence, which alone constitute
the chief corner-stone and sure foundation, on which any man can build with
the reasonable hope of a prosperous issue to his work.
It may be noticed, in
concluding this topic, that the corner-stone seems to be peculiarly a Jewish
symbol. I can find no reference to it in any of the ancient pagan rites, and
the EBEN PINAH, the corner-stone, which is so frequently mentioned in
Scripture as the emblem of an important personage, and most usually, in the
Old Testament, of the expected Messiah, appears, in its use in Masonry, to
have had, unlike almost every other symbol of the order, an exclusively
The Ineffable Name.
Another important symbol is
the Ineffable Name, with which the series of ritualistic symbols will be
or Ineffable Word,—the Incommunicable Name,—is a symbol—for
rightly-considered it is nothing more than a symbol—that has more than any
other (except, perhaps, the symbols connected with sun-worship), pervaded
the rites of antiquity. I know, indeed, of no system of ancient initiation
in which it has not some prominent form and place.
But as it was, perhaps, the
earliest symbol which was corrupted by the spurious Freemasonry of the
pagans, in their secession from the primitive system of the patriarchs and
ancient priesthood, it will be most expedient for the thorough discussion of
the subject which is proposed in the present paper, that we should begin the
investigation with an inquiry into the nature of the symbol among the
That name of God, which we,
at a venture, pronounce Jehovah,—although whether this is, or is not, the
true pronunciation can now never be authoritatively settled,—was ever held
by the Jews in the most profound veneration. They derived its origin from
the immediate inspiration of the Almighty, who communicated it to Moses as
his especial appellation, to be used only by his chosen people; and this
communication was made at the Burning Bush, when he said to him, "Thus shalt
thou say unto the children of Israel: Jehovah, the God of your fathers, the
God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto
you: this [Jehovah] is my name forever, and this is my memorial unto all
And at a subsequent period he still more emphatically declared this to be
his peculiar name: "I am Jehovah; and I appeared unto Abraham, unto
Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of El Shaddai; but by my name
Jehovah was I not known unto them."
It will be perceived that I
have not here followed precisely the somewhat unsatisfactory version of King
James's Bible, which, by translating or anglicizing one name, and not the
other, leaves the whole passage less intelligible and impressive than it
should be. I have retained the original Hebrew for both names. El Shaddai,
"the Almighty One," was the name by which he had been heretofore known to
the preceding patriarchs; in its meaning it was analogous to Elohim, who is
described in the first chapter of Genesis as creating the world. But his
name of Jehovah was now for the first time to be communicated to his people.
Ushered to their notice with
all the solemnity and religious consecration of these scenes and events,
this name of God became invested among the Israelites with the profoundest
veneration and awe. To add to this mysticism, the Cabalists, by the change
of a single letter, read the passage, "This is my name forever," or, as it
is in the original, Zeh shemi l'olam, זה שמי לעלם as if written
Zeh shemi l'alam, זה שמי לאלם that is to say, "This is my name to be
This interpretation, although
founded on a blunder, and in all probability an intentional one, soon became
a precept, and has been strictly obeyed to this day.125
The word Jehovah is never pronounced by a pious Jew, who, whenever he
meets with it in Scripture, substitutes for it the word Adonai or
Lord—a practice which has been followed by the translators of the common
English version of the Bible with almost Jewish scrupulosity, the word
"Jehovah" in the original being invariably translated by the word "Lord."
pronunciation of the word, being thus abandoned, became ultimately lost, as,
by the peculiar construction of the Hebrew language, which is entirely
without vowels, the letters, being all consonants, can give no possible
indication, to one who has not heard it before, of the true pronunciation of
any given word.
To make this subject plainer
to the reader who is unacquainted with the Hebrew, I will venture to furnish
an explanation which will, perhaps, be intelligible.
The Hebrew alphabet consists
entirely of consonants, the vowel sounds having always been inserted orally,
and never marked in writing until the "vowel points," as they are called,
were invented by the Masorites, some six centuries after the Christian era.
As the vowel sounds were originally supplied by the reader, while reading,
from a knowledge which he had previously received, by means of oral
instruction, of the proper pronunciation of the word, he was necessarily
unable to pronounce any word which had never before been uttered in his
presence. As we know that Dr. is to be pronounced Doctor, and
Mr. Mister, because we have always heard those peculiar combinations
of letters thus enunciated, and not because the letters themselves give any
such sound; so the Jew knew from instruction and constant practice, and not
from the power of the letters, how the consonants in the different words in
daily use were to be vocalized. But as the four letters which compose the
word Jehovah, as we now call it, were never pronounced in his
presence, but were made to represent another word, Adonai, which was
substituted for it, and as the combination of these four consonants would
give no more indication for any sort of enunciation than the combinations
Dr. or Mr. give in our language, the Jew, being ignorant of what
vocal sounds were to be supplied, was unable to pronounce the word, so that
its true pronunciation was in time lost to the masses of the people.
There was one person,
however, who, it is said, was in possession of the proper sound of the
letters and the true pronunciation of the word. This was the high priest,
who, receiving it from his predecessor, preserved the recollection of the
sound by pronouncing it three times, once a year, on the day of the
atonement, when he entered the holy of holies of the tabernacle or the
If the traditions of Masonry
on this subject are correct, the kings, after the establishment of the
monarchy, must have participated in this privilege; for Solomon is said to
have been in possession of the word, and to have communicated it to his two
colleagues at the building of the temple.
This is the word which, from
the number of its letters, was called the "tetragrammaton," or four-lettered
name, and, from its sacred inviolability, the "ineffable" or unutterable
The Cabalists and Talmudists
have enveloped it in a host of mystical superstitions, most of which are as
absurd as they are incredible, but all of them tending to show the great
veneration that has always been paid to it.127
Thus they say that it is possessed of unlimited powers, and that he who
pronounces it shakes heaven and earth, and inspires the very angels with
terror and astonishment.
The Rabbins called it "shem
hamphorash," that is to say, "the name that is declaratory," and they say
that David found it engraved on a stone while digging into the earth.
From the sacredness with
which the name was venerated, it was seldom, if ever, written in full, and,
consequently, a great many symbols, or hieroglyphics, were invented to
express it. One of these was the letter י or Yod, equivalent nearly
to the English I, or J, or Y, which was the initial of the word, and it was
often inscribed within an equilateral triangle, thus:
the triangle itself being a
symbol of Deity.
This symbol of the name of
God is peculiarly worthy of our attention, since not only is the triangle to
be found in many of the ancient religions occupying the same position, but
the whole symbol itself is undoubtedly the origin of that hieroglyphic
exhibited in the second degree of Masonry, where, the explanation of the
symbolism being the same, the form of it, as far as it respects the letter,
has only been anglicized by modern innovators. In my own opinion, the letter
G, which is used in the Fellow Craft's degree, should never have been
permitted to intrude into Masonry; it presents an instance of absurd
anachronism, which would never have occurred if the original Hebrew symbol
had been retained. But being there now, without the possibility of removal,
we have only to remember that it is in fact but the symbol of a symbol.128
Widely spread, as I have
already said, was this reverence for the name of God; and, consequently, its
symbolism, in some peculiar form, is to be found in all the ancient rites.
Thus the Ineffable Name
itself, of which we have been discoursing, is said to have been preserved in
its true pronunciation by the Essenes, who, in their secret rites,
communicated it to each other only in a whisper, and in such form, that
while its component parts were known, they were so separated as to make the
whole word a mystery.
Among the Egyptians, whose
connection with the Hebrews was more immediate than that of any other
people, and where, consequently, there was a greater similarity of rites,
the same sacred name is said to have been used as a password, for the
purpose of gaining admission to their Mysteries.
In the Brahminic Mysteries of
Hindostan the ceremony of initiation was terminated by intrusting the
aspirant with the sacred, triliteral name, which was AUM, the three letters
of which were symbolic of the creative, preservative, and destructive
principles of the Supreme Deity, personified in the three manifestations of
Bramah, Siva, and Vishnu. This word was forbidden to be pronounced aloud. It
was to be the subject of silent meditation to the pious Hindoo.
In the rites of Persia an
ineffable name was also communicated to the candidate after his initiation.129
Mithras, the principal divinity in these rites, who took the place of the
Hebrew Jehovah, and represented the sun, had this peculiarity in his
name—that the numeral value of the letters of which it was composed amounted
to precisely 365, the number of days which constitute a revolution of the
earth around the sun, or, as they then supposed, of the sun around the
In the Mysteries introduced
by Pythagoras into Greece we again find the ineffable name of the Hebrews,
obtained doubtless by the Samian Sage during his visit to Babylon.130
The symbol adopted by him to express it was, however, somewhat different,
being ten points distributed in the form of a triangle, each side containing
four points, as in the annexed figure.
The apex of the triangle was
consequently a single point then followed below two others, then three; and
lastly, the base consisted of four. These points were, by the number in each
rank, intended, according to the Pythagorean system, to denote respectively
the monad, or active principle of nature; the duad, or passive
principle; the triad, or world emanating from their union; and the
quaterniad, or intellectual science; the whole number of points
amounting to ten, the symbol of perfection and consummation. This figure was
called by Pythagoras the tetractys—a word equivalent in signification
to the tetragrammaton; and it was deemed so sacred that on it the
oath of secrecy and fidelity was administered to the aspirants in the
Among the Scandinavians, as
among the Jewish Cabalists, the Supreme God who was made known in their
mysteries had twelve names, of which the principal and most sacred one was
Alfader, the Universal Father.
Among the Druids, the sacred
name of God was Hu132—a
name which, although it is supposed, by Bryant, to have been intended by
them for Noah, will be recognized as one of the modifications of the Hebrew
tetragrammaton. It is, in fact, the masculine pronoun in Hebrew, and may be
considered as the symbolization of the male or generative principle in
nature—a sort of modification of the system of Phallic worship.
This sacred name among the
Druids reminds me of what is the latest, and undoubtedly the most
philosophical, speculation on the true meaning, as well as pronunciation, of
the ineffable tetragrammaton. It is from the ingenious mind of the
celebrated Lanci; and I have already, in another work, given it to the
public as I received it from his pupil, and my friend, Mr. Gliddon, the
distinguished archaeologist. But the results are too curious to be omitted
whenever the tetragrammaton is discussed.
Elsewhere I have very fully
alluded to the prevailing sentiment among the ancients, that the Supreme
Deity was bisexual, or hermaphrodite, including in the essence of his being
the male and female principles, the generative and prolific powers of
nature. This was the universal doctrine in all the ancient religions, and
was very naturally developed in the symbol of the phallus and
cteis among the Greeks, and in the corresponding one of the lingam
and yoni among the Orientalists; from which symbols the masonic
point within a circle is a legitimate derivation. They all taught that
God, the Creator, was both male and female.
Now, this theory is
undoubtedly unobjectionable on the score of orthodoxy, if we view it in the
spiritual sense, in which its first propounders must necessarily have
intended it to be presented to the mind, and not in the gross, sensual
meaning in which it was subsequently received. For, taking the word sex,
not in its ordinary and colloquial signification, as denoting the indication
of a particular physical organization, but in that purely philosophical one
which alone can be used in such a connection, and which simply signifies the
mere manifestation of a power, it is not to be denied that the Supreme Being
must possess in himself, and in himself alone, both a generative and a
prolific power. This idea, which was so extensively prevalent among all the
nations of antiquity,133
has also been traced in the tetragrammaton, or name of Jehovah, with
singular ingenuity, by Lanci; and, what is almost equally as interesting, he
has, by this discovery, been enabled to demonstrate what was, in all
probability, the true pronunciation of the word.
In giving the details of this
philological discovery, I will endeavor to make it as comprehensible as it
can be made to those who are not critically acquainted with the construction
of the Hebrew language; those who are will at once appreciate its peculiar
character, and will excuse the explanatory details, of course unnecessary to
The ineffable name, the
tetragrammaton, the shem hamphorash,—for it is known by all these
appellations,—consists of four letters, yod, heh, vau, and heh,
forming the word יהוה. This word, of course, in accordance with the genius
of the Hebrew language, is read, as we would say, backward, or from right to
left, beginning with yod [י], and ending with heh [ה].
Of these letters, the first,
yod [י], is equivalent to the English i pronounced as e
in the word machine.
The second and fourth letter,
heh [ה], is an aspirate, and has here the sound of the English h.
And the third letter, vau
[ו], has the sound of open o.
Now, reading these four
letters, י, or I, ה, or H, ו, or O, and ה, or H, as the Hebrew requires,
from right to left, we have the word יהוה, יהוה, which is really as near to
the pronunciation as we can well come, notwithstanding it forms neither of
the seven ways in which the word is said to have been pronounced, at
different times, by the patriarchs.134
But, thus pronounced, the
word gives us no meaning, for there is no such word in Hebrew as ihoh;
and, as all the Hebrew names were significative of something, it is but fair
to conclude that this was not the original pronunciation, and that we must
look for another which will give a meaning to the word. Now, Lanci proceeds
to the discovery of this true pronunciation, as follows:—
In the Cabala, a hidden
meaning is often deduced from a word by transposing or reversing its
letters, and it was in this way that the Cabalists concealed many of their
Now, to reverse a word in
English is to read its letters from right to left, because our normal
mode of reading is from left to right. But in Hebrew the contrary
rule takes place, for there the normal mode of reading is from right to
left; and therefore, to reverse the reading of a word, is to read it
from left to right.
Lanci applied this cabalistic
mode to the tetragrammaton, when he found that IH-OH, being read reversely,
makes the word HO-HI.135
But in Hebrew, ho is
the masculine pronoun, equivalent to the English he; and hi is
the feminine pronoun, equivalent to she; and therefore the word
HO-HI, literally translated, is equivalent to the English compound HE-SHE;
that is to say, the Ineffable Name of God in Hebrew, being read
cabalistically, includes within itself the male and female principle, the
generative and prolific energy of creation; and here we have, again, the
widely-spread symbolism of the phallus and the cteis, the lingam and the
yoni, or their equivalent, the point within a circle, and another pregnant
proof of the connection between Freemasonry and the ancient Mysteries.
And here, perhaps, we may
begin to find some meaning for the hitherto incomprehensible passage in
Genesis (i. 27): "So God created man in his own image; in the image of
God created he him; male and female created he them." They could
not have been "in the image" of IHOH, if they had not been "male and
The Cabalists have exhausted
their ingenuity and imagination in speculations on this sacred name, and
some of their fancies are really sufficiently interesting to repay an
investigation. Sufficient, however, has been here said to account for the
important position that it occupies in the masonic system, and to enable us
to appreciate the symbols by which it has been represented.
The great reverence, or
indeed the superstitious veneration, entertained by the ancients for the
name of the Supreme Being, led them to express it rather in symbols or
hieroglyphics than in any word at length.
We know, for instance, from
the recent researches of the archaeologists, that in all the documents of
the ancient Egyptians, written in the demotic or common character of the
country, the names of the gods were invariably denoted by symbols; and I
have already alluded to the different modes by which the Jews expressed the
tetragrammaton. A similar practice prevailed among the other nations of
antiquity. Freemasonry has adopted the same expedient, and the Grand
Architect of the Universe, whom it is the usage, even in ordinary writing,
to designate by the initials G.A.O.T.U., is accordingly presented to us in a
variety of symbols, three of which particularly require attention. These are
the letter G, the equilateral triangle, and the All-Seeing Eye.
Of the letter G I have
already spoken. A letter of the English alphabet can scarcely be considered
an appropriate symbol of an institution which dates its organization and
refers its primitive history to a period long anterior to the origin of that
language. Such a symbol is deficient in the two elements of antiquity and
universality which should characterize every masonic symbol. There can,
therefore, be no doubt that, in its present form, it is a corruption of the
old Hebrew symbol, the letter yod, by which the sacred name was often
expressed. This letter is the initial of the word Jehovah, or Ihoh,
as I have already stated, and is constantly to be met with in Hebrew
writings as the symbol or abbreviature of Jehovah, which word, it
will be remembered, is never written at length. But because G is, in
like manner, the initial of God, the equivalent of Jehovah,
this letter has been incorrectly, and, I cannot refrain from again saying,
most injudiciously, selected to supply, in modern lodges, the place of the
Having, then, the same
meaning and force as the Hebrew yod, the letter G must be
considered, like its prototype, as the symbol of the life-giving and
life-sustaining power of God, as manifested in the meaning of the word
Jehovah, or Ihoh, the generative and prolific energy of the Creator.
The All-Seeing Eye is
another, and a still more important, symbol of the same great Being. Both
the Hebrews and the Egyptians appear to have derived its use from that
natural inclination of figurative minds to select an organ as the symbol of
the function which it is intended peculiarly to discharge. Thus the foot was
often adopted as the symbol of swiftness, the arm of strength, and the hand
of fidelity. On the same principle, the open eye was selected as the symbol
of watchfulness, and the eye of God as the symbol of divine watchfulness and
care of the universe. The use of the symbol in this sense is repeatedly to
be found in the Hebrew writers. Thus the Psalmist says (Ps. xxxiv. 15), "The
eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open to their
cry," which explains a subsequent passage (Ps. cxxi. 4), in which it is
said, "Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep."
On the same principle, the
Egyptians represented Osiris, their chief deity, by the symbol of an open
eye, and placed this hieroglyphic of him in all their temples. His symbolic
name, on the monuments, was represented by the eye accompanying a throne, to
which was sometimes added an abbreviated figure of the god, and sometimes
what has been called a hatchet, but which, I consider, may as correctly be
supposed to be a representation of a square.
The All-Seeing Eye may, then,
be considered as a symbol of God manifested in his omnipresence—his guardian
and preserving character—to which Solomon alludes in the Book of Proverbs
(xv. 3), when he says, "The eyes of Jehovah are in every place, beholding
(or as it might be more faithfully translated, watching) the evil and the
good." It is a symbol of the Omnipresent Deity.
The triangle is
another symbol which is entitled to our consideration. There is, in fact, no
other symbol which is more various in its application or more generally
diffused throughout the whole system of both the Spurious and the Pure
The equilateral triangle
appears to have been adopted by nearly all the nations of antiquity as a
symbol of the Deity.
Among the Hebrews, it has
already been stated that this figure, with a yod in the centre, was
used to represent the tetragrammaton, or ineffable name of God.
The Egyptians considered the
equilateral triangle as the most perfect of figures, and a representative of
the great principle of animated existence, each of its sides referring to
one of the three departments of creation—the animal, the vegetable, and the
The symbol of universal
nature among the Egyptians was the right-angled triangle, of which the
perpendicular side represented Osiris, or the male principle; the base,
Isis, or the female principle; and the hypothenuse, their offspring, Horus,
or the world emanating from the union of both principles.
All this, of course, is
nothing more nor less than the phallus and cteis, or lingam and yoni, under
a different form.
The symbol of the
right-angled triangle was afterwards adopted by Pythagoras when he visited
the banks of the Nile; and the discovery which he is said to have made in
relation to the properties of this figure, but which he really learned from
the Egyptian priests, is commemorated in Masonry by the introduction of the
forty-seventh problem of Euclid's First Book among the symbols of the third
degree. Here the same mystical application is supplied as in the Egyptian
figure, namely, that the union of the male and female, or active and passive
principles of nature, has produced the world. For the geometrical
proposition being that the squares of the perpendicular and base are equal
to the square of the hypothenuse, they may be said to produce it in the same
way as Osiris and Isis are equal to, or produce, the world.
Thus the perpendicular—Osiris,
or the active, male principle—being represented by a line whose measurement
is 3; and the base—Isis, or the passive, female principle—by a line whose
measurement is 4; then their union, or the addition of the squares of these
numbers, will produce a square whose root will be the hypothenuse, or a line
whose measurement must be 5. For the square of 3 is 9, and the square of 4
is 16, and the square of 5 is 25; but 9 added to 16 is equal to 25; and
thus, out of the addition, or coming together, of the squares of the
perpendicular and base, arises the square of the hypothenuse, just as, out
of the coming together, in the Egyptian system, of the active and passive
principles, arises, or is generated, the world.
In the mediaeval history of
the Christian church, the great ignorance of the people, and their
inclination to a sort of materialism, led them to abandon the symbolic
representations of the Deity, and to depict the Father with the form and
lineaments of an aged man, many of which irreverent paintings, as far back
as the twelfth century, are to be found in the religious books and edifices
But, after the period of the renaissance, a better spirit and a purer taste
began to pervade the artists of the church, and thenceforth the Supreme
Being was represented only by his name—the tetragrammaton—inscribed within
an equilateral triangle, and placed within a circle of rays. Didron, in his
invaluable work on Christian Iconography, gives one of these symbols, which
was carved on wood in the seventeenth century, of which I annex a copy.
But even in the earliest
ages, when the Deity was painted or sculptured as a personage, the nimbus,
or glory, which surrounded the head of the Father, was often made to assume
a triangular form. Didron says on this subject, "A nimbus, of a triangular
form, is thus seen to be the exclusive attribute of the Deity, and most
frequently restricted to the Father Eternal. The other persons of the
trinity sometimes wear the triangle, but only in representations of the
trinity, and because the Father is with them. Still, even then, beside the
Father, who has a triangle, the Son and the Holy Ghost are often drawn with
a circular nimbus only."
The triangle has, in all ages
and in all religions, been deemed a symbol of Deity.
The Egyptians, the Greeks,
and the other nations of antiquity, considered this figure, with its three
sides, as a symbol of the creative energy displayed in the active and
passive, or male and female, principles, and their product, the world; the
Christians referred it to their dogma of the trinity as a manifestation of
the Supreme God; and the Jews and the primitive masons to the three periods
of existence included in the signification of the tetragrammaton—the past,
the present, and the future.
In the higher degrees of
Masonry, the triangle is the most important of all symbols, and most
generally assumes the name of the Delta, in allusion to the fourth
letter of the Greek alphabet, which is of the same form and bears that
The Delta, or mystical
triangle, is generally surrounded by a circle of rays, called a "glory."
When this glory is distinct from the figure, and surrounds it in the form of
a circle (as in the example just given from Didron), it is then an emblem of
God's eternal glory. When, as is most usual in the masonic symbol, the rays
emanate from the centre of the triangle, and, as it were, enshroud it in
their brilliancy, it is symbolic of the Divine Light. The perverted ideas of
the pagans referred these rays of light to their Sun-god and their Sabian
But the true masonic idea of
this glory is, that it symbolizes that Eternal Light of Wisdom which
surrounds the Supreme Architect as with a sea of glory, and from him, as a
common centre, emanates to the universe of his creation, and to which the
prophet Ezekiel alludes in his eloquent description of Jehovah: "And I saw
as the color of amber, as the appearance of fire round about within it, from
the appearance of his loins even upward, and from his loins even downward, I
saw, as it were, the appearance of fire, and it had brightness round about."
(Chap. 1, ver. 27.)
Dante has also beautifully
described this circumfused light of Deity:—
"There is in heaven a light
whose goodly shine
Makes the Creator visible to all
Created, that in seeing him, alone
Have peace; and in a circle spreads so far,
That the circumference were too loose a zone
To girdle in the sun."
On a recapitulation, then, of
the views that have been advanced in relation to these three symbols of the
Deity which are to be found in the masonic system, we may say that each one
expresses a different attribute.
The letter G is the
symbol of the self-existent Jehovah.
The All-Seeing Eye is
the symbol of the omnipresent God.
is the symbol of the Supreme Architect of the Universe—the Creator; and when
surrounded by rays of glory, it becomes a symbol of the Architect and
Bestower of Light.
And now, after all, is there
not in this whole prevalence of the name of God, in so many different
symbols, throughout the masonic system, something more than a mere evidence
of the religious proclivities of the institution? Is there not behind this a
more profound symbolism, which constitutes, in fact, the very essence of
Freemasonry? "The names of God," said a learned theologian at the beginning
of this century, "were intended to communicate the knowledge of God himself.
By these, men were enabled to receive some scanty ideas of his essential
majesty, goodness, and power, and to know both whom we are to believe, and
what we are to believe of him."
And this train of thought is
eminently applicable to the admission of the name into the system of
Masonry. With us, the name of God, however expressed, is a symbol of DIVINE
TRUTH, which it should be the incessant labor of a Mason to seek.
The Legends of Freemasonry.
The compound character of a
speculative science and an operative art, which the masonic institution
assumed at the building of King Solomon's temple, in consequence of the
union, at that era, of the Pure Freemasonry of the Noachidae140
with the Spurious Freemasonry of the Tyrian workmen, has supplied it with
two distinct kinds of symbols—the mythical, or legendary, and
the material; but these are so thoroughly united in object and
design, that it is impossible to appreciate the one without an investigation
of the other.
Thus, by way of illustration,
it may be observed, that the temple itself has been adopted as a material
symbol of the world (as I have already shown in former articles), while the
legendary history of the fate of its builder is a mythical symbol of man's
destiny in the world. Whatever is visible or tangible to the senses in our
types and emblems—such as the implements of operative masonry, the furniture
and ornaments of a lodge, or the ladder of seven steps—is a material
symbol; while whatever derives its existence from tradition, and
presents itself in the form of an allegory or legend, is a mythical
symbol. Hiram the Builder, therefore, and all that refers to the legend
of his connection with the temple, and his fate,—such as the sprig of
acacia, the hill near Mount Moriah, and the lost word,—are to be considered
as belonging to the class of mythical or legendary symbols.
And this division is not
arbitrary, but depends on the nature of the types and the aspect in which
they present themselves to our view.
Thus the sprig of acacia,
although it is material, visible, and tangible, is, nevertheless, not to be
treated as a material symbol; for, as it derives all its significance from
its intimate connection with the legend of Hiram Abif, which is a mythical
symbol, it cannot, without a violent and inexpedient disruption, be
separated from the same class. For the same reason, the small hill near
Mount Moriah, the search of the twelve Fellow Crafts, and the whole train of
circumstances connected with the lost word, are to be viewed simply as
mythical or legendary, and not as material symbols.
These legends of Freemasonry
constitute a considerable and a very important part of its ritual. Without
them, the most valuable portions of the masonic as a scientific system would
cease to exist. It is, in fact, in the traditions and legends of
Freemasonry, more, even, than in its material symbols, that we are to find
the deep religious instruction which the institution is intended to
inculcate. It must be remembered that Freemasonry has been defined to be "a
system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols." Symbols,
then, alone, do not constitute the whole of the system: allegory comes in
for its share; and this allegory, which veils the divine truths of masonry,
is presented to the neophyte in the various legends which have been
traditionally preserved in the order.
The close connection, at
least in design and method of execution, between the institution of
Freemasonry and the ancient Mysteries, which were largely imbued with the
mythical character of the ancient religions, led, undoubtedly, to the
introduction of the same mythical character into the masonic system.
So general, indeed, was the
diffusion of the myth or legend among the philosophical, historical, and
religious systems of antiquity, that Heyne remarks, on this subject, that
all the history and philosophy of the ancients proceeded from myths.141
The word myth, from
the Greek μῦθος, a story, in its original acceptation, signified
simply a statement or narrative of an event, without any necessary
implication of truth or falsehood; but, as the word is now used, it conveys
the idea of a personal narrative of remote date, which, although not
necessarily untrue, is certified only by the internal evidence of the
Creuzer, in his "Symbolik,"
says that myths and symbols were derived, on the one hand, from the helpless
condition and the poor and scanty beginnings of religious knowledge among
the ancient peoples, and on the other, from the benevolent designs of the
priests educated in the East, or of Eastern origin, to form them to a purer
and higher knowledge.
But the observations of that
profoundly philosophical historian, Mr. Grote, give so correct a view of the
probable origin of this universality of the mythical element in all the
ancient religions, and are, withal, so appropriate to the subject of masonic
legends which I am now about to discuss, that I cannot justly refrain from a
liberal quotation of his remarks.
interpretation of the myths," he says, "has been, by several learned
investigators, especially by Creuzer, connected with the hypothesis of an
ancient and highly-instructed body of priests, having their origin either in
Egypt or the East, and communicating to the rude and barbarous Greeks
religious, physical, and historical knowledge, under the veil of symbols. At
a time (we are told) when language was yet in its infancy, visible symbols
were the most vivid means of acting upon the minds of ignorant hearers. The
next step was to pass to symbolical language and expressions; for a plain
and literal exposition, even if understood at all, would at least have been
listened to with indifference, as not corresponding with any mental demand.
In such allegorizing way, then, the early priests set forth their doctrines
respecting God, nature, and humanity,—a refined monotheism and theological
philosophy,—and to this purpose the earliest myths were turned. But another
class of myths, more popular and more captivating, grew up under the hands
of the poets—myths purely epical, and descriptive of real or supposed past
events. The allegorical myths, being taken up by the poets, insensibly
became confounded in the same category with the purely narrative myths; the
matter symbolized was no longer thought of, while the symbolizing words came
to be construed in their own literal meaning, and the basis of the early
allegory, thus lost among the general public, was only preserved as a secret
among various religious fraternities, composed of members allied together by
initiation in certain mystical ceremonies, and administered by hereditary
families of presiding priests.
"In the Orphic and Bacchic
sects, in the Eleusinian and Samothracian Mysteries, was thus treasured up
the secret doctrine of the old theological and philosophical myths, which
had once constituted the primitive legendary stock of Greece in the hands of
the original priesthood and in the ages anterior to Homer. Persons who had
gone through the preliminary ceremonies of initiation were permitted at
length to hear, though under strict obligation of secrecy, this ancient
religion and cosmogonic doctrine, revealing the destination of man and the
certainty of posthumous rewards and punishments, all disengaged from the
corruptions of poets, as well as from the symbols and allegories under which
they still remained buried in the eyes of the vulgar. The Mysteries of
Greece were thus traced up to the earliest ages, and represented as the only
faithful depositaries of that purer theology and physics which had been
originally communicated, though under the unavoidable inconvenience of a
symbolical expression, by an enlightened priesthood, coming from abroad, to
the then rude barbarians of the country."
In this long but interesting
extract we find not only a philosophical account of the origin and design of
the ancient myths, but a fair synopsis of all that can be taught in relation
to the symbolical construction of Freemasonry, as one of the depositaries of
a mythical theology.
The myths of Masonry, at
first perhaps nothing more than the simple traditions of the Pure
Freemasonry of the antediluvian system, having been corrupted and
misunderstood in the separation of the races, were again purified, and
adapted to the inculcation of truth, at first by the disciples of the
Spurious Freemasonry, and then, more fully and perfectly, in the development
of that system which we now practise. And if there be any leaven of error
still remaining in the interpretation of our masonic myths, we must seek to
disengage them from the corruptions with which they have been invested by
ignorance and by misinterpretation. We must give to them their true
significance, and trace them back to those ancient doctrines and faith
whence the ideas which they are intended to embody were derived.
The myths or legends which
present themselves to our attention in the course of a complete study of the
symbolic system of Freemasonry may be considered as divided into three
The historical myth.
The philosophical myth.
The mythical history.
And these three classes may
be defined as follows:—
1. The myth may be engaged in
the transmission of a narrative of early deeds and events, having a
foundation in truth, which truth, however, has been greatly distorted and
perverted by the omission or introduction of circumstances and personages,
and then it constitutes the historical myth.
2. Or it may have been
invented and adopted as the medium of enunciating a particular thought, or
of inculcating a certain doctrine, when it becomes a philosophical myth.
3. Or, lastly, the truthful
elements of actual history may greatly predominate over the fictitious and
invented materials of the myth, and the narrative may be, in the main, made
up of facts, with a slight coloring of imagination, when it forms a
These form the three
divisions of the legend or myth (for I am not disposed, on the present
occasion, like some of the German mythological writers, to make a
distinction between the two words145);
and to one of these three divisions we must appropriate every legend which
belongs to the mythical symbolism of Freemasonry.
These masonic myths partake,
in their general character, of the nature of the myths which constituted the
foundation of the ancient religions, as they have just been described in the
language of Mr. Grote. Of these latter myths, Müller146
says that "their source is to be found, for the most part, in oral
tradition," and that the real and the ideal—that is to say, the facts of
history and the inventions of imagination—concurred, by their union and
reciprocal fusion, in producing the myth.
Those are the very principles
that govern the construction of the masonic myths or legends. These, too,
owe their existence entirely to oral tradition, and are made up, as I have
just observed, of a due admixture of the real and the ideal—the true and the
false—the facts of history and the inventions of allegory.
Dr. Oliver remarks that "the
first series of historical facts, after the fall of man, must necessarily
have been traditional, and transmitted from father to son by oral
The same system, adopted in all the Mysteries, has been continued in the
masonic institution; and all the esoteric instructions contained in the
legends of Freemasonry are forbidden to be written, and can be communicated
only in the oral intercourse of Freemasons with each other.148
De Wette, in his Criticism on
the Mosaic History, lays down the test by which a myth is to be
distinguished from a strictly historical narrative, as follows, namely: that
the myth must owe its origin to the intention of the inventor not to satisfy
the natural thirst for historical truth by a simple narration of facts, but
rather to delight or touch the feelings, or to illustrate some philosophical
or religious truth.
This definition precisely
fits the character of the myths of Masonry. Take, for instance, the legend
of the master's degree, or the myth of Hiram Abif. As "a simple narration of
facts," it is of no great value—certainly not of value commensurate with the
labor that has been engaged in its transmission. Its invention—by which is
meant, not the invention or imagination of all the incidents of which it is
composed, for there are abundant materials of the true and real in its
details, but its invention or composition in the form of a myth by the
addition of some features, the suppression of others, and the general
arrangement of the whole—was not intended to add a single item to the great
mass of history, but altogether, as De Wette says, "to illustrate a
philosophical or religious truth," which truth, it is hardly necessary for
me to say, is the doctrine of the immortality of the soul.
It must be evident, from all
that has been said respecting the analogy in origin and design between the
masonic and the ancient religious myths, that no one acquainted with the
true science of this subject can, for a moment, contend that all the legends
and traditions of the order are, to the very letter, historical facts. All
that can be claimed for them is, that in some there is simply a substratum
of history, the edifice constructed on this foundation being purely
inventive, to serve us a medium for inculcating some religious truth; in
others, nothing more than an idea to which the legend or myth is indebted
for its existence, and of which it is, as a symbol, the exponent; and in
others, again, a great deal of truthful narrative, more or less intermixed
with fiction, but the historical always predominating.
Thus there is a legend,
contained in some of our old records, which states that Euclid was a
distinguished Mason, and that he introduced Masonry among the Egyptians.149
Now, it is not at all necessary to the orthodoxy of a Mason's creed that he
should literally believe that Euclid, the great geometrician, was really a
Freemason, and that the ancient Egyptians were indebted to him for the
establishment of the institution among them. Indeed, the palpable
anachronism in the legend which makes Euclid the contemporary of Abraham
necessarily prohibits any such belief, and shows that the whole story is a
sheer invention. The intelligent Mason, however, will not wholly reject the
legend, as ridiculous or absurd; but, with a due sense of the nature and
design of our system of symbolism, will rather accept it as what, in the
classification laid down on a preceding page, would be called "a
philosophical myth"—an ingenious method of conveying, symbolically, a
Euclid is here very
appropriately used as a type of geometry, that science of which he was so
eminent a teacher, and the myth or legend then symbolizes the fact that
there was in Egypt a close connection between that science and the great
moral and religious system, which was among the Egyptians, as well as other
ancient nations, what Freemasonry is in the present day—a secret
institution, established for the inculcation of the same principles, and
inculcating them in the same symbolic manner. So interpreted, this legend
corresponds to all the developments of Egyptian history, which teach us how
close a connection existed in that country between the religious and
scientific systems. Thus Kenrick tells us, that "when we read of foreigners
[in Egypt] being obliged to submit to painful and tedious ceremonies of
initiation, it was not that they might learn the secret meaning of the rites
of Osiris or Isis, but that they might partake of the knowledge of
astronomy, physic, geometry, and theology."
Another illustration will be
found in the myth or legend of the Winding Stairs, by which the
Fellow Crafts are said to have ascended to the middle chamber to receive
their wages. Now, this myth, taken in its literal sense, is, in all its
parts, opposed to history and probability. As a myth, it finds its origin in
the fact that there was a place in the temple called the "Middle Chamber,"
and that there were "winding stairs" by which it was reached; for we read,
in the First Book of Kings, that "they went up with winding stairs into the
middle chamber." 151
But we have no historical evidence that the stairs were of the construction,
or that the chamber was used for the purpose, indicated in the mythical
narrative, as it is set forth in the ritual of the second degree. The whole
legend is, in fact, an historical myth, in which the mystic number of the
steps, the process of passing to the chamber, and the wages there received,
are inventions added to or ingrafted on the fundamental history contained in
the sixth chapter of Kings, to inculcate important symbolic instruction
relative to the principles of the order. These lessons might, it is true,
have been inculcated in a dry, didactic form; but the allegorical and
mythical method adopted tends to make a stronger and deeper impression on
the mind, and at the same time serves more closely to connect the
institution of Masonry with the ancient temple.
Again: the myth which traces
the origin of the institution of Freemasonry to the beginning of the world,
making its commencement coeval with the creation,—a myth which is, even at
this day, ignorantly interpreted, by some, as an historical fact, and the
reference to which is still preserved in the date of "anno lucis," which is
affixed to all masonic documents,—is but a philosophical myth, symbolizing
the idea which analogically connects the creation of physical light in the
universe with the birth of masonic or spiritual and intellectual light in
the candidate. The one is the type of the other. When, therefore, Preston
says that "from the commencement of the world we may trace the foundation of
Masonry," and when he goes on to assert that "ever since symmetry began, and
harmony displayed her charms, our order has had a being," we are not to
suppose that Preston intended to teach that a masonic lodge was held in the
Garden of Eden. Such a supposition would justly subject us to the ridicule
of every intelligent person. The only idea intended to be conveyed is this:
that the principles of Freemasonry, which, indeed, are entirely independent
of any special organization which it may have as a society, are coeval with
the existence of the world; that when God said, "Let there be light," the
material light thus produced was an antitype of that spiritual light that
must burst upon the mind of every candidate when his intellectual world,
theretofore "without form and void," becomes adorned and peopled with the
living thoughts and divine principles which constitute the great system of
Speculative Masonry, and when the spirit of the institution, brooding over
the vast deep of his mental chaos, shall, from intellectual darkness, bring
forth intellectual light.152
In the legends of the
Master's degree and of the Royal Arch there is a commingling of the
historical myth and the mythical history, so that profound judgment is often
required to discriminate these differing elements. As, for example, the
legend of the third degree is, in some of its details, undoubtedly
mythical—in others, just as undoubtedly historical. The difficulty, however,
of separating the one from the other, and of distinguishing the fact from
the fiction, has necessarily produced a difference of opinion on the subject
among masonic writers. Hutchinson, and, after him, Oliver, think the whole
legend an allegory or philosophical myth. I am inclined, with Anderson and
the earlier writers, to suppose it a mythical history. In the Royal Arch
degree, the legend of the rebuilding of the temple is clearly historical;
but there are so many accompanying circumstances, which are uncertified,
except by oral tradition, as to give to the entire narrative the appearance
of a mythical history. The particular legend of the three weary
sojourners is undoubtedly a myth, and perhaps merely a philosophical
one, or the enunciation of an idea—namely, the reward of successful
perseverance, through all dangers, in the search for divine truth.
"To form symbols and to
interpret symbols," says the learned Creuzer, "were the main occupation of
the ancient priesthood." Upon the studious Mason the same task of
interpretation devolves. He who desires properly to appreciate the profound
wisdom of the institution of which he is the disciple, must not be content,
with uninquiring credulity, to accept all the traditions that are imparted
to him as veritable histories; nor yet, with unphilosophic incredulity, to
reject them in a mass, as fabulous inventions. In these extremes there is
equal error. "The myth," says Hermann, "is the representation of an idea."
It is for that idea that the student must search in the myths of Masonry.
Beneath every one of them there is something richer and more spiritual than
the mere narrative.153
This spiritual essence he must learn to extract from the ore in which, like
a precious metal, it lies imbedded. It is this that constitutes the true
value of Freemasonry. Without its symbols, and its myths or legends, and the
ideas and conceptions which lie at the bottom of them, the time, the labor,
and the expense incurred in perpetuating the institution, would be thrown
away. Without them, it would be a "vain and empty show." Its grips and signs
are worth nothing, except for social purposes, as mere means of recognition.
So, too, would be its words, were it not that they are, for the most part,
symbolic. Its social habits and its charities are but incidental points in
its constitution—of themselves good, it is true, but capable of being
attained in a simpler way. Its true value, as a science, consists in its
symbolism—in the great lessons of divine truth which it teaches, and in the
admirable manner in which it accomplishes that teaching. Every one,
therefore, who desires to be a skilful Mason, must not suppose that the task
is accomplished by a perfect knowledge of the mere phraseology of the
ritual, by a readiness in opening and closing a lodge, nor by an off-hand
capacity to confer degrees. All these are good in their places, but without
the internal meaning they are but mere child's play. He must study the
myths, the traditions, and the symbols of the order, and learn their true
interpretation; for this alone constitutes the science and the
philosophy—the end, aim, and design of Speculative Masonry.
The Legend of the Winding Stairs.
Before proceeding to the
examination of those more important mythical legends which appropriately
belong to the Master's degree, it will not, I think, be unpleasing or
uninstructive to consider the only one which is attached to the Fellow
Craft's degree—that, namely, which refers to the allegorical ascent of the
Winding Stairs to the Middle Chamber, and the symbolic payment of the
Although the legend of the
Winding Stairs forms an important tradition of Ancient Craft Masonry, the
only allusion to it in Scripture is to be found in a single verse in the
sixth chapter of the First Book of Kings, and is in these words: "The door
for the middle chamber was in the right side of the house; and they went up
with winding stairs into the middle chamber, and out of the middle into the
third." Out of this slender material has been constructed an allegory,
which, if properly considered in its symbolical relations, will be found to
be of surpassing beauty. But it is only as a symbol that we can regard this
whole tradition; for the historical facts and the architectural details
alike forbid us for a moment to suppose that the legend, as it is rehearsed
in the second degree of Masonry, is anything more than a magnificent
Let us inquire into the true
design of this legend, and learn the lesson of symbolism which it is
intended to teach.
In the investigation of the
true meaning of every masonic symbol and allegory, we must be governed by
the single principle that the whole design of Freemasonry as a speculative
science is the investigation of divine truth. To this great object
everything is subsidiary. The Mason is, from the moment of his initiation as
an Entered Apprentice, to the time at which he receives the full fruition of
masonic light, an investigator—a laborer in the quarry and the temple—whose
reward is to be Truth. All the ceremonies and traditions of the order tend
to this ultimate design. Is there light to be asked for? It is the
intellectual light of wisdom and truth. Is there a word to be sought? That
word is the symbol of truth. Is there a loss of something that had been
promised? That loss is typical of the failure of man, in the infirmity of
his nature, to discover divine truth. Is there a substitute to be appointed
for that loss? It is an allegory which teaches us that in this world man can
only approximate to the full conception of truth.
Hence there is in Speculative
Masonry always a progress, symbolized by its peculiar ceremonies of
initiation. There is an advancement from a lower to a higher state—from
darkness to light—from death to life—from error to truth. The candidate is
always ascending; he is never stationary; he never goes back, but each step
he takes brings him to some new mental illumination—to the knowledge of some
more elevated doctrine. The teaching of the Divine Master is, in respect to
this continual progress, the teaching of Masonry—"No man having put his hand
to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of heaven." And
similar to this is the precept of Pythagoras: "When travelling, turn not
back, for if you do the Furies will accompany you."
Now, this principle of
masonic symbolism is apparent in many places in each of the degrees. In that
of the Entered Apprentice we find it developed in the theological ladder,
which, resting on earth, leans its top upon heaven, thus inculcating the
idea of an ascent from a lower to a higher sphere, as the object of masonic
labor. In the Master's degree we find it exhibited in its most religious
form, in the restoration from death to life—in the change from the obscurity
of the grave to the holy of holies of the Divine Presence. In all the
degrees we find it presented in the ceremony of circumambulation, in which
there is a gradual inquisition, and a passage from an inferior to a superior
officer. And lastly, the same symbolic idea is conveyed in the Fellow
Craft's degree in the legend of the Winding Stairs.
In an investigation of the
symbolism of the Winding Stairs we shall be directed to the true explanation
by a reference to their origin, their number, the objects which they recall,
and their termination, but above all by a consideration of the great design
which an ascent upon them was intended to accomplish.
The steps of this Winding
Staircase commenced, we are informed, at the porch of the temple; that is to
say, at its very entrance. But nothing is more undoubted in the science of
masonic symbolism than that the temple was the representative of the world
purified by the Shekinah, or the Divine Presence. The world of the profane
is without the temple; the world of the initiated is within its sacred
walls. Hence to enter the temple, to pass within the porch, to be made a
Mason, and to be born into the world of masonic light, are all synonymous
and convertible terms. Here, then, the symbolism of the Winding Stairs
The Apprentice, having
entered within the porch of the temple, has begun his masonic life. But the
first degree in Masonry, like the lesser Mysteries of the ancient systems of
initiation, is only a preparation and purification for something higher. The
Entered Apprentice is the child in Masonry. The lessons which he receives
are simply intended to cleanse the heart and prepare the recipient for that
mental illumination which is to be given in the succeeding degrees.
As a Fellow Craft, he has
advanced another step, and as the degree is emblematic of youth, so it is
here that the intellectual education of the candidate begins. And therefore,
here, at the very spot which separates the Porch from the Sanctuary, where
childhood ends and manhood begins, he finds stretching out before him a
winding stair which invites him, as it were, to ascend, and which, as the
symbol of discipline and instruction, teaches him that here must commence
his masonic labor—here he must enter upon those glorious though difficult
researches, the end of which is to be the possession of divine truth. The
Winding Stairs begin after the candidate has passed within the Porch and
between the pillars of Strength and Establishment, as a significant symbol
to teach him that as soon as he has passed beyond the years of irrational
childhood, and commenced his entrance upon manly life, the laborious task of
self-improvement is the first duty that is placed before him. He cannot
stand still, if he would be worthy of his vocation; his destiny as an
immortal being requires him to ascend, step by step, until he has reached
the summit, where the treasures of knowledge await him.
The number of these steps in
all the systems has been odd. Vitruvius remarks—and the coincidence is at
least curious—that the ancient temples were always ascended by an odd number
of steps; and he assigns as the reason, that, commencing with the right foot
at the bottom, the worshipper would find the same foot foremost when he
entered the temple, which was considered as a fortunate omen. But the fact
is, that the symbolism of numbers was borrowed by the Masons from
Pythagoras, in whose system of philosophy it plays an important part, and in
which odd numbers were considered as more perfect than even ones. Hence,
throughout the masonic system we find a predominance of odd numbers; and
while three, five, seven, nine, fifteen, and twenty-seven, are all-important
symbols, we seldom find a reference to two, four, six, eight, or ten. The
odd number of the stairs was therefore intended to symbolize the idea of
perfection, to which it was the object of the aspirant to attain.
As to the particular number
of the stairs, this has varied at different periods. Tracing-boards of the
last century have been found, in which only five steps are
delineated, and others in which they amount to seven. The Prestonian
lectures, used in England in the beginning of this century, gave the whole
number as thirty-eight, dividing them into series of one, three, five,
seven, nine, and eleven. The error of making an even number, which was a
violation of the Pythagorean principle of odd numbers as the symbol of
perfection, was corrected in the Hemming lectures, adopted at the union of
the two Grand Lodges of England, by striking out the eleven, which was also
objectionable as receiving a sectarian explanation. In this country the
number was still further reduced to fifteen, divided into three
series of three, five, and seven. I shall adopt this American
division in explaining the symbolism, although, after all, the particular
number of the steps, or the peculiar method of their division into series,
will not in any way affect the general symbolism of the whole legend.
The candidate, then, in the
second degree of Masonry, represents a man starting forth on the journey of
life, with the great task before him of self-improvement. For the faithful
performance of this task, a reward is promised, which reward consists in the
development of all his intellectual faculties, the moral and spiritual
elevation of his character, and the acquisition of truth and knowledge. Now,
the attainment of this moral and intellectual condition supposes an
elevation of character, an ascent from a lower to a higher life, and a
passage of toil and difficulty, through rudimentary instruction, to the full
fruition of wisdom. This is therefore beautifully symbolized by the Winding
Stairs; at whose foot the aspirant stands ready to climb the toilsome steep,
while at its top is placed "that hieroglyphic bright which none but
Craftsmen ever saw," as the emblem of divine truth. And hence a
distinguished writer has said that "these steps, like all the masonic
symbols, are illustrative of discipline and doctrine, as well as of natural,
mathematical, and metaphysical science, and open to us an extensive range of
moral and speculative inquiry."
The candidate, incited by the
love of virtue and the desire of knowledge, and withal eager for the reward
of truth which is set before him, begins at once the toilsome ascent. At
each division he pauses to gather instruction from the symbolism which these
divisions present to his attention.
At the first pause which he
makes he is instructed in the peculiar organization of the order of which he
has become a disciple. But the information here given, if taken in its
naked, literal sense, is barren, and unworthy of his labor. The rank of the
officers who govern, and the names of the degrees which constitute the
institution, can give him no knowledge which he has not before possessed. We
must look therefore to the symbolic meaning of these allusions for any value
which may be attached to this part of the ceremony.
The reference to the
organization of the masonic institution is intended to remind the aspirant
of the union of men in society, and the development of the social state out
of the state of nature. He is thus reminded, in the very outset of his
journey, of the blessings which arise from civilization, and of the fruits
of virtue and knowledge which are derived from that condition. Masonry
itself is the result of civilization; while, in grateful return, it has been
one of the most important means of extending that condition of mankind.
All the monuments of
antiquity that the ravages of time have left, combine to prove that man had
no sooner emerged from the savage into the social state, than he commenced
the organization of religious mysteries, and the separation, by a sort of
divine instinct, of the sacred from the profane. Then came the invention of
architecture as a means of providing convenient dwellings and necessary
shelter from the inclemencies and vicissitudes of the seasons, with all the
mechanical arts connected with it; and lastly, geometry, as a necessary
science to enable the cultivators of land to measure and designate the
limits of their possessions. All these are claimed as peculiar
characteristics of Speculative Masonry, which may be considered as the type
of civilization, the former bearing the same relation to the profane world
as the latter does to the savage state. Hence we at once see the fitness of
the symbolism which commences the aspirant's upward progress in the
cultivation of knowledge and the search after truth, by recalling to his
mind the condition of civilization and the social union of mankind as
necessary preparations for the attainment of these objects. In the allusions
to the officers of a lodge, and the degrees of Masonry as explanatory of the
organization of our own society, we clothe in our symbolic language the
history of the organization of society.
Advancing in his progress,
the candidate is invited to contemplate another series of instructions. The
human senses, as the appropriate channels through which we receive all our
ideas of perception, and which, therefore, constitute the most important
sources of our knowledge, are here referred to as a symbol of intellectual
cultivation. Architecture, as the most important of the arts which conduce
to the comfort of mankind, is also alluded to here, not simply because it is
so closely connected with the operative institution of Masonry, but also as
the type of all the other useful arts. In his second pause, in the ascent of
the Winding Stairs, the aspirant is therefore reminded of the necessity of
cultivating practical knowledge.
So far, then, the
instructions he has received relate to his own condition in society as a
member of the great social compact, and to his means of becoming, by a
knowledge of the arts of practical life, a necessary and useful member of
But his motto will be,
"Excelsior." Still must he go onward and forward. The stair is still before
him; its summit is not yet reached, and still further treasures of wisdom
are to be sought for, or the reward will not be gained, nor the middle
chamber, the abiding place of truth, be reached.
In his third pause, he
therefore arrives at that point in which the whole circle of human science
is to be explained. Symbols, we know, are in themselves arbitrary and of
conventional signification, and the complete circle of human science might
have been as well symbolized by any other sign or series of doctrines as by
the seven liberal arts and sciences. But Masonry is an institution of the
olden time; and this selection of the liberal arts and sciences as a symbol
of the completion of human learning is one of the most pregnant evidences
that we have of its antiquity.
In the seventh century, and
for a long time afterwards, the circle of instruction to which all the
learning of the most eminent schools and most distinguished philosophers was
confined, was limited to what were then called the liberal arts and
sciences, and consisted of two branches, the trivium and the
The trivium included grammar, rhetoric, and logic; the quadrivium
comprehended arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy.
"These seven heads," says
Enfield, "were supposed to include universal knowledge. He who was master of
these was thought to have no need of a preceptor to explain any books or to
solve any questions which lay within the compass of human reason, the
knowledge of the trivium having furnished him with the key to all
language, and that of the quadrivium having opened to him the secret
laws of nature." 155
At a period, says the same
writer, when few were instructed in the trivium, and very few studied
the quadrivium, to be master of both was sufficient to complete the
character of a philosopher. The propriety, therefore, of adopting the seven
liberal arts and sciences as a symbol of the completion of human learning is
apparent. The candidate, having reached this point, is now supposed to have
accomplished the task upon which he had entered—he has reached the last
step, and is now ready to receive the full fruition of human learning.
So far, then, we are able to
comprehend the true symbolism of the Winding Stairs. They represent the
progress of an inquiring mind with the toils and labors of intellectual
cultivation and study, and the preparatory acquisition of all human science,
as a preliminary step to the attainment of divine truth, which it must be
remembered is always symbolized in Masonry by the WORD.
Here let me again allude to
the symbolism of numbers, which is for the first time presented to the
consideration of the masonic student in the legend of the Winding Stairs.
The theory of numbers as the symbols of certain qualities was originally
borrowed by the Masons from the school of Pythagoras. It will be impossible,
however, to develop this doctrine, in its entire extent, on the present
occasion, for the numeral symbolism of Masonry would itself constitute
materials for an ample essay. It will be sufficient to advert to the fact
that the total number of the steps, amounting in all to fifteen, in
the American system, is a significant symbol. For fifteen was a
sacred number among the Orientals, because the letters of the holy name JAH,
יה, were, in their numerical value, equivalent to fifteen; and hence a
figure in which the nine digits were so disposed as to make fifteen either
way when added together perpendicularly, horizontally, or diagonally,
constituted one of their most sacred talismans.156
The fifteen steps in the Winding Stairs are therefore symbolic of the name
But we are not yet done. It
will be remembered that a reward was promised for all this toilsome ascent
of the Winding Stairs. Now, what are the wages of a Speculative Mason? Not
money, nor corn, nor wine, nor oil. All these are but symbols. His wages are
TRUTH, or that approximation to it which will be most appropriate to the
degree into which he has been initiated. It is one of the most beautiful,
but at the same time most abstruse, doctrines of the science of masonic
symbolism, that the Mason is ever to be in search of truth, but is never to
find it. This divine truth, the object of all his labors, is symbolized by
the WORD, for which we all know he can only obtain a substitute; and
this is intended to teach the humiliating but necessary lesson that the
knowledge of the nature of God and of man's relation to him, which knowledge
constitutes divine truth, can never be acquired in this life. It is only
when the portals of the grave open to us, and give us an entrance into a
more perfect life, that this knowledge is to be attained. "Happy is the
man," says the father of lyric poetry, "who descends beneath the hollow
earth, having beheld these mysteries; he knows the end, he knows the origin
The Middle Chamber is
therefore symbolic of this life, where the symbol only of the word can be
given, where the truth is to be reached by approximation only, and yet where
we are to learn that that truth will consist in a perfect knowledge of the
G.A.O.T.U. This is the reward of the inquiring Mason; in this consist the
wages of a Fellow Craft; he is directed to the truth, but must travel
farther and ascend still higher to attain it.
It is, then, as a symbol, and
a symbol only, that we must study this beautiful legend of the Winding
Stairs. If we attempt to adopt it as an historical fact, the absurdity of
its details stares us in the face, and wise men will wonder at our
credulity. Its inventors had no desire thus to impose upon our folly; but
offering it to us as a great philosophical myth, they did not for a moment
suppose that we would pass over its sublime moral teachings to accept the
allegory as an historical narrative, without meaning, and wholly
irreconcilable with the records of Scripture, and opposed by all the
principles of probability. To suppose that eighty thousand craftsmen were
weekly paid in the narrow precincts of the temple chambers, is simply to
suppose an absurdity. But to believe that all this pictorial representation
of an ascent by a Winding Staircase to the place where the wages of labor
were to be received, was an allegory to teach us the ascent of the mind from
ignorance, through all the toils of study and the difficulties of obtaining
knowledge, receiving here a little and there a little, adding something to
the stock of our ideas at each step, until, in the middle chamber of
life,—in the full fruition of manhood,—the reward is attained, and the
purified and elevated intellect is invested with the reward in the direction
how to seek God and God's truth,—to believe this is to believe and to know
the true design of Speculative Masonry, the only design which makes it
worthy of a good or a wise man's study.
Its historical details are
barren, but its symbols and allegories are fertile with instruction.
The Legend of the Third Degree.
The most important and
significant of the legendary symbols of Freemasonry is, undoubtedly, that
which relates to the fate of Hiram Abif, commonly called, "by way of
excellence," the Legend of the Third Degree.
The first written record that
I have been able to find of this legend is contained in the second edition
of Anderson's Constitutions, published in 1738, and is in these words:—
"It (the temple) was finished
in the short space of seven years and six months, to the amazement of all
the world; when the cape-stone was celebrated by the fraternity with great
joy. But their joy was soon interrupted by the sudden death of their dear
master, Hiram Abif, whom they decently interred, in the lodge near the
temple, according to ancient dusage."
In the next edition of the
same work, published in 1756, a few additional circumstances are related,
such as the participation of King Solomon in the general grief, and the fact
that the king of Israel "ordered his obsequies to be conducted with great
solemnity and decency."
158 With these exceptions, and the citations of the same passages,
made by subsequent authors, the narrative has always remained unwritten, and
descended, from age to age, through the means of oral tradition.
The legend has been
considered of so much importance that it has been preserved in the symbolism
of every masonic rite. No matter what modifications or alterations the
general system may have undergone,—no matter how much the ingenuity or the
imagination of the founders of rites may have perverted or corrupted other
symbols, abolishing the old and substituting new ones,—the legend of the
Temple Builder has ever been left untouched, to present itself in all the
integrity of its ancient mythical form.
What, then, is the
signification of this symbol, so important and so extensively diffused? What
interpretation can we give to it that will account for its universal
adoption? How is it that it has thus become so intimately interwoven with
Freemasonry as to make, to all appearances, a part of its very essence, and
to have been always deemed inseparable from it?
To answer these questions,
satisfactorily, it is necessary to trace, in a brief investigation, the
remote origin of the institution of Freemasonry, and its connection with the
ancient systems of initiation.
It was, then, the great
object of all the rites and mysteries which constituted the "Spurious
Freemasonry" of antiquity to teach the consoling doctrine of the immortality
of the soul.159
This dogma, shining as an almost solitary beacon-light in the surrounding
gloom of pagan darkness, had undoubtedly been received from that ancient
people or priesthood160
what has been called the system of "Pure Freemasonry," and among whom it
probably existed only in the form of an abstract proposition or a simple and
unembellished tradition. But in the more sensual minds of the pagan
philosophers and mystics, the idea, when presented to the initiates in their
Mysteries, was always conveyed in the form of a scenic representation.161
The influence, too, of the early Sabian worship of the sun and heavenly
bodies, in which the solar orb was adored, on its resurrection, each
morning, from the apparent death of its evening setting, caused this rising
sun to be adopted in the more ancient Mysteries as a symbol of the
regeneration of the soul.
Thus in the Egyptian
Mysteries we find a representation of the death and subsequent regeneration
of Osiris; in the Phœnician, of Adonis; in the Syrian, of Dionysus; in all
of which the scenic apparatus of initiation was intended to indoctrinate the
candidate into the dogma of a future life.
It will be sufficient here to
refer simply to the fact, that through the instrumentality of the Tyrian
workmen at the temple of King Solomon, the spurious and pure branches of the
masonic system were united at Jerusalem, and that the same method of scenic
representation was adopted by the latter from the former, and the narrative
of the temple builder substituted for that of Dionysus, which was the myth
peculiar to the mysteries practised by the Tyrian workmen.
The idea, therefore, proposed
to be communicated in the myth of the ancient Mysteries was the same as that
which is now conveyed in the masonic legend of the Third Degree.
Hence, then, Hiram Abif is,
in the masonic system, the symbol of human nature, as developed in the life
here and the life to come; and so, while the temple was, as I have
heretofore shown, the visible symbol of the world, its builder became the
mythical symbol of man, the dweller and worker in that world.
Now, is not this symbolism
evident to every reflective mind?
Man, setting forth on the
voyage of life, with faculties and powers fitting him for the due exercise
of the high duties to whose performance he has been called, holds, if he be
"a curious and cunning workman,"
162 skilled in all
moral and intellectual purposes (and it is only of such men that the temple
builder can be the symbol), within the grasp of his attainment the knowledge
of all that divine truth imparted to him as the heirloom of his race—that
race to whom it has been granted to look, with exalted countenance, on high;163
which divine truth is symbolized by the WORD.
Thus provided with the word
of life, he occupies his time in the construction of a spiritual temple, and
travels onward in the faithful discharge of all his duties, laying down his
designs upon the trestle-board of the future and invoking the assistance and
direction of God.
But is his path always over
flowery meads and through pleasant groves? Is there no hidden foe to
obstruct his progress? Is all before him clear and calm, with joyous
sunshine and refreshing zephyrs? Alas! not so. "Man is born to trouble, as
the sparks fly upward." At every "gate of life"—as the Orientalists have
beautifully called the different ages—he is beset by peril. Temptations
allure his youth, misfortunes darken the pathway of his manhood, and his old
age is encumbered with infirmity and disease. But clothed in the armor of
virtue he may resist the temptation; he may cast misfortunes aside, and rise
triumphantly above them; but to the last, the direst, the most inexorable
foe of his race, he must eventually yield; and stricken down by death, he
sinks prostrate into the grave, and is buried in the rubbish of his
sin and human frailty.
Here, then, in Masonry, is
what was called the aphanism164
in the ancient Mysteries. The bitter but necessary lesson of death has been
imparted. The living soul, with the lifeless body which encased it, has
disappeared, and can nowhere be found. All is darkness—confusion—
despair. Divine truth—the WORD—for a time is lost, and the Master Mason may
now say, in the language of Hutchinson, "I prepare my sepulchre. I make my
grave in the pollution of the earth. I am under the shadow of death."
But if the mythic symbolism
ended here, with this lesson of death, then were the lesson incomplete. That
teaching would be vain and idle—nay, more, it would be corrupt and
pernicious—which should stop short of the conscious and innate instinct for
another existence. And hence the succeeding portions of the legend are
intended to convey the sublime symbolism of a resurrection from the grave
and a new birth into a future life. The discovery of the body, which, in the
initiations of the ancient Mysteries, was called the euresis,165
and its removal, from the polluted grave into which it had been cast, to an
honored and sacred place within the precincts of the temple, are all
profoundly and beautifully symbolic of that great truth, the discovery of
which was the object of all the ancient initiations, as it is almost the
whole design of Freemasonry, namely, that when man shall have passed the
gates of life and have yielded to the inexorable fiat of death, he shall
then (not in the pictured ritual of an earthly lodge, but in the realities
of that eternal one, of which the former is but an antitype) be raised, at
the omnific word of the Grand Master of the Universe, from time to eternity;
from the tomb of corruption to the chambers of hope; from the darkness of
death to the celestial beams of life; and that his disembodied spirit shall
be conveyed as near to the holy of holies of the divine presence as humanity
can ever approach to Deity.
Such I conceive to be the
true interpretation of the symbolism of the legend of the Third Degree.
I have said that this
mythical history of the temple builder was universal in all nations and all
rites, and that in no place and at no time had it, by alteration,
diminution, or addition, acquired any essentially new or different form: the
myth has always remained the same.
But it is not so with its
interpretation. That which I have just given, and which I conceive to be the
correct one, has been very generally adopted by the Masons of this country.
But elsewhere, and by various writers, other interpretations have been made,
very different in their character, although always agreeing in retaining the
general idea of a resurrection or regeneration, or a restoration of
something from an inferior to a higher sphere or function.
Thus some of the earlier
continental writers have supposed the myth to have been a symbol of the
destruction of the Order of the Templars, looking upon its restoration to
its original wealth and dignities as being prophetically symbolized.
In some of the high
philosophical degrees it is taught that the whole legend refers to the
sufferings and death, with the subsequent resurrection, of Christ.166
Hutchinson, who has the honor
of being the earliest philosophical writer on Freemasonry in England,
supposes it to have been intended to embody the idea of the decadence of the
Jewish religion, and the substitution of the Christian in its place and on
Dr. Oliver—"clarum et
venerabile nomen"—thinks that it is typical of the murder of Abel by Cain,
and that it symbolically refers to the universal death of our race through
Adam, and its restoration to life in the Redeemer,168
according to the expression of the apostle, "As in Adam we all died, so in
Christ we all live."
Ragon makes Hiram a symbol of
the sun shorn of its vivifying rays and fructifying power by the three
winter months, and its restoration to generative heat by the season of
And, finally, Des Etangs,
adopting, in part, the interpretation of Ragon, adds to it another, which he
calls the moral symbolism of the legend, and supposes that Hiram is no other
than eternal reason, whose enemies are the vices that deprave and destroy
To each of these
interpretations it seems to me that there are important objections, though
perhaps to some less so than to others.
As to those who seek for an
astronomical interpretation of the legend, in which the annual changes of
the sun are symbolized, while the ingenuity with which they press their
argument cannot but be admired, it is evident that, by such an
interpretation, they yield all that Masonry has gained of religious
development in past ages, and fall back upon that corruption and perversion
of Sabaism from which it was the object, even of the Spurious Freemasonry of
antiquity, to rescue its disciples.
The Templar interpretation of
the myth must at once be discarded if we would avoid the difficulties of
anachronism, unless we deny that the legend existed before the abolition of
the Order of Knights Templar, and such denial would be fatal to the
antiquity of Freemasonry.171
And as to the adoption of the
Christian reference, Hutchinson, and after him Oliver, profoundly
philosophical as are the masonic speculations of both, have, I am
constrained to believe, fallen into a great error in calling the Master
Mason's degree a Christian institution. It is true that it embraces within
its scheme the great truths of Christianity upon the subject of the
immortality of the soul and the resurrection of the body; but this was to be
presumed, because Freemasonry is truth, and Christianity is truth, and all
truth must be identical. But the origin of each is different; their
histories are dissimilar. The institution of Freemasonry preceded the advent
of Christianity. Its symbols and its legends are derived from the Solomonic
temple, and from the people even anterior to that. Its religion comes from
the ancient priesthood. Its faith was that primitive one of Noah and his
immediate descendants. If Masonry were simply a Christian institution, the
Jew and the Moslem, the Brahmin and the Buddhist, could not conscientiously
partake of its illumination; but its universality is its boast. In its
language citizens of every nation may converse; at its altar men of all
religions may kneel; to its creed disciples of every faith may subscribe.
Yet it cannot be denied, that
since the advent of Christianity a Christian element has been almost
imperceptibly infused into the masonic system, at least among Christian
Masons. This has been a necessity; for it is the tendency of every
predominant religion to pervade with its influences all that surrounds it,
or is about it, whether religious, political, or social. This arises from a
need of the human heart. To the man deeply imbued with the spirit of his
religion there is an almost unconscious desire to accommodate and adapt all
the business and the amusements of life, the labors and the employments of
his every-day existence, to the indwelling faith of his soul.
The Christian Mason,
therefore, while acknowledging and justly appreciating the great doctrines
taught in Masonry, and while grateful that these doctrines were preserved in
the bosom of his ancient order at a time when they were unknown to the
multitudes of the surrounding nations, is still anxious to give to them a
Christian character, to invest them, in some measure, with the peculiarities
of his own creed, and to bring the interpretation of their symbolism more
nearly home to his own religious sentiments.
The feeling is an instinctive
one, belonging to the noblest aspirations of our human nature; and hence we
find Christian masonic writers indulging in it almost to an unwarrantable
excess, and by the extent of their sectarian interpretations materially
affecting the cosmopolitan character of the institution.
This tendency to
Christianization has, in some instances, been so universal, and has
prevailed for so long a period, that certain symbols and myths have been, in
this way, so deeply and thoroughly imbued with the Christian element as to
leave those who have not penetrated into the cause of this peculiarity, in
doubt whether they should attribute to the symbol an ancient or a modern and
As an illustration of the
idea here advanced, and as a remarkable example of the result of a gradually
Christianized interpretation of a masonic symbol, I will refer to the
subordinate myth (subordinate, I mean, to the great legend of the Builder),
which relates the circumstances connected with the grave upon "the brow
of a small hill near Mount Moriah."
Now, the myth or legend of a
grave is a legitimate deduction from the symbolism of the ancient Spurious
Masonry. It is the analogue of the Pastos, Couch, or Coffin,
which was to be found in the ritual of all the pagan Mysteries. In all these
initiations, the aspirant was placed in a cell or upon a couch, in darkness,
and for a period varying, in the different rites, from the three days of the
Grecian Mysteries to the fifty of the Persian. This cell or couch,
technically called the "pastos," was adopted as a symbol of the being whose
death and resurrection or apotheosis, was represented in the legend.
The learned Faber says that
this ceremony was doubtless the same as the descent into Hades,172
and that, when the aspirant entered into the mystic cell, he was directed to
lay himself down upon the bed which shadowed out the tomb of the Great
Father, or Noah, to whom, it will be recollected, that Faber refers all the
ancient rites. "While stretched upon the holy couch," he continues to
remark, "in imitation of his figurative deceased prototype, he was said to
be wrapped in the deep sleep of death. His resurrection from the bed was his
restoration to life or his regeneration into a new world."
Now, it is easy to see how
readily such a symbolism would be seized by the Temple Masons, and
appropriated at once to the grave at the brow of the hill. At first,
the interpretation, like that from which it had been derived, would be
cosmopolitan; it would fit exactly to the general dogmas of the resurrection
of the body and the immortality of the soul.
But on the advent of
Christianity, the spirit of the new religion being infused into the old
masonic system, the whole symbolism of the grave was affected by it. The
same interpretation of a resurrection or restoration to life, derived from
the ancient "pastos," was, it is true, preserved; but the facts that Christ
himself had come to promulgate to the multitudes the same consoling dogma,
and that Mount Calvary, "the place of a skull," was the spot where the
Redeemer, by his own death and resurrection, had testified the truth of the
doctrine, at once suggested to the old Christian Masons the idea of
Christianizing the ancient symbol.
Let us now examine briefly
how that idea has been at length developed.
In the first place, it is
necessary to identify the spot where the "newly-made grave" was discovered
with Mount Calvary, the place of the sepulchre of Christ. This can easily be
done by a very few but striking analogies, which will, I conceive, carry
conviction to any thinking mind.
1. Mount Calvary was a
2. It was situated in a
westward direction from the temple, and near Mount Moriah.
3. It was on the direct road
from Jerusalem to Joppa, and is thus the very spot where a weary brother,
travelling on that road, would find it convenient to sit down to rest and
4. It was outside the
gate of the temple.
5. It has at least one
cleft in the rock, or cave, which was the place which subsequently
became the sepulchre of our Lord. But this coincidence need scarcely to be
insisted on, since the whole neighborhood abounds in rocky clefts, which
meet at once the conditions of the masonic legend.
But to bring this analogical
reasoning before the mind in a more expressive mode, it may be observed that
if a party of persons were to start forth from the temple at Jerusalem, and
travel in a westward direction towards the port of Joppa, Mount Calvary
would be the first hill met with; and as it may possibly have been used as a
place of sepulture, which its name of Golgotha175
seems to import, we may suppose it to have been the very spot alluded to in
the Third Degree, as the place where the craftsmen, on their way to Joppa,
discovered the evergreen acacia.
Having thus traced the
analogy, let us look a little to the symbolism.
Mount Calvary has always
retained an important place in the legendary history of Freemasonry, and
there are many traditions connected with it that are highly interesting in
One of these traditions is,
that it was the burial-place of Adam, in order, says the old legend, that
where he lay, who effected the ruin of mankind, there also might the Savior
of the world suffer, die, and be buried. Sir R. Torkington, who published a
pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 1517, says that "under the Mount of Calvary is
another chapel of our Blessed Lady and St. John the Evangelist, that was
called Golgotha; and there, right under the mortise of the cross, was found
the head of our forefather, Adam."
176 Golgotha, it
will be remembered, means, in Hebrew, "the place of a skull;" and there may
be some connection between this tradition and the name of Golgotha, by which
the Evangelists inform us, that in the time of Christ Mount Calvary was
known. Calvary, or Calvaria, has the same signification in Latin.
Another tradition states,
that it was in the bowels of Mount Calvary that Enoch erected his
nine-arched vault, and deposited on the foundation-stone of Masonry that
Ineffable Name, whose investigation, as a symbol of divine truth, is the
great object of Speculative Masonry.
A third tradition details the
subsequent discovery of Enoch's deposit by King Solomon, whilst making
excavations in Mount Calvary, during the building of the temple.
On this hallowed spot was
Christ the Redeemer slain and buried. It was there that, rising on the third
day from his sepulchre, he gave, by that act, the demonstrative evidence of
the resurrection of the body and the immortality of the soul.
And it was on this spot that
the same great lesson was taught in Masonry—the same sublime truth—the
development of which evidently forms the design of the Third or Master
There is in these analogies a
sublime beauty as well as a wonderful coincidence between the two systems of
Masonry and Christianity, that must, at an early period, have attracted the
attention of the Christian Masons.
Mount Calvary is consecrated
to the Christian as the place where his crucified Lord gave the last great
proof of the second life, and fully established the doctrine of the
resurrection which he had come to teach. It was the sepulchre of him
"Who captive led captivity,
Who robbed the grave of victory,
And took the sting from death."
It is consecrated to the
Mason, also, as the scene of the euresis, the place of the discovery,
where the same consoling doctrines of the resurrection of the body and the
immortality of the soul are shadowed forth in profoundly symbolic forms.
These great truths constitute
the very essence of Christianity, in which it differs from and excels all
religious systems that preceded it; they constitute, also, the end, aim, and
object of all Freemasonry, but more especially that of the Third Degree,
whose peculiar legend, symbolically considered, teaches nothing more nor
less than that there is an immortal and better part within us, which, as an
emanation from that divine spirit which pervades all nature, can never die.
The identification of the
spot on which this divine truth was promulgated in both systems—the
Christian and the Masonic—affords an admirable illustration of the readiness
with which the religious spirit of the former may be infused into the
symbolism of the latter. And hence Hutchinson, thoroughly imbued with these
Christian views of Masonry, has called the Master Mason's order a Christian
degree, and thus Christianizes the whole symbolism of its mythical history.
"The Great Father of all,
commiserating the miseries of the world, sent his only Son, who was
innocence itself, to teach the doctrine of salvation—by whom man was
raised from the death of sin unto the life of righteousness—from the tomb of
corruption unto the chamber of hope—from the darkness of despair to the
celestial beams of faith; and not only working for us this redemption, but
making with us the covenant of regeneration; whence we are become the
children of the Divinity, and inheritors of the realms of heaven.
describing the deplorable estate of religion under the Jewish law, speak in
figures: 'Her tomb was in the rubbish and filth cast forth of the temple,
and acacia wove its branches over her monuments;' akakia being
the Greek word for innocence, or being free from sin; implying that the sins
and corruptions of the old law, and devotees of the Jewish altar, had hid
Religion from those who sought her, and she was only to be found where
innocence survived, and under the banner of the Divine Lamb, and, as to
ourselves, professing that we were to be distinguished by our Acacy,
or as true Acacians in our religious faiths and tenets.
"The acquisition of the
doctrine of redemption is expressed in the typical character of Huramen
(I have found it.—Greek), and by the applications of that name with
Masons, it is implied that we have discovered the knowledge of God and his
salvation, and have been redeemed from the death of sin and the sepulchre of
pollution and unrighteousness.
"Thus the Master Mason
represents a man, under the Christian doctrine, saved from the grave of
iniquity and raised to the faith of salvation."
It is in this way that
Masonry has, by a sort of inevitable process (when we look to the religious
sentiment of the interpreters), been Christianized by some of the most
illustrious and learned writers on masonic science—by such able men as
Hutchinson and Oliver in England, and by Harris, by Scott, by Salem Towne,
and by several others in this country.
I do not object to the system
when the interpretation is not strained, but is plausible, consistent, and
productive of the same results as in the instance of Mount Calvary: all that
I contend for is, that such interpretations are modern, and that they do not
belong to, although they may often be deduced from, the ancient system.
But the true ancient
interpretation of the legend,—the universal masonic one,—for all countries
and all ages, undoubtedly was, that the fate of the temple builder is but
figurative of the pilgrimage of man on earth, through trials and
temptations, through sin and sorrow, until his eventual fall beneath the
blow of death and his final and glorious resurrection to another and an
The Sprig of Acacia.
Intimately connected with the
legend of the third degree is the mythical history of the Sprig of Acacia,
which we are now to consider.
There is no symbol more
interesting to the masonic student than the Sprig of Acacia, not only on
account of its own peculiar import, but also because it introduces us to an
extensive and delightful field of research; that, namely, which embraces the
symbolism of sacred plants. In all the ancient systems of religion, and
Mysteries of initiation, there was always some one plant consecrated, in the
minds of the worshippers and participants, by a peculiar symbolism, and
therefore held in extraordinary veneration as a sacred emblem. Thus the ivy
was used in the Mysteries of Dionysus, the myrtle in those of Ceres, the
erica in the Osirian, and the lettuce in the Adonisian. But to this subject
I shall have occasion to refer more fully in a subsequent part of the
Before entering upon an
examination of the symbolism of the Acacia, it will be, perhaps, as
well to identify the true plant which occupies so important a place in the
ritual of Freemasonry.
And here, in passing, I may
be permitted to say that it is a very great error to designate the symbolic
plant of Masonry by the name of "Cassia"—an error which undoubtedly arose,
originally, from the very common habit among illiterate people of sinking
the sound of the letter a in the pronunciation of any word of which
it constitutes the initial syllable. Just, for instance, as we constantly
hear, in the conversation of the uneducated, the words pothecary and
prentice for apothecary and apprentice, shall we also
find cassia used for acacia.177
Unfortunately, however, this corruption of acacia into cassia
has not always been confined to the illiterate: but the long employment of
the corrupted form has at length introduced it, in some instances, among a
few of our writers. Even the venerable Oliver, although well acquainted with
the symbolism of the acacia, and having written most learnedly upon it, has,
at times, allowed himself to use the objectionable corruption, unwittingly
influenced, in all probability, by the too frequent adoption of the latter
word in the English lodges. In America, but few Masons fall into the error
of speaking of the Cassia. The proper teaching of the Acacia
is here well understood.178
The cassia of the
ancients was, in fact, an ignoble plant having no mystic meaning and no
sacred character, and was never elevated to a higher function than that of
being united, as Virgil informs us, with other odorous herbs in the
formation of a garland:—
The poppy's flush, and dill which scents the gale,
Cassia, and hyacinth, and daffodil,
With yellow marigold the chaplet fill."
Alston says that the "Cassia
lignea of the ancients was the larger branches of the cinnamon tree, cut off
with their bark and sent together to the druggists; their Cassia fistula, or
Syrinx, was the same cinnamon in the bark only;" but Ruæus says that it also
sometimes denoted the lavender, and sometimes the rosemary.
In Scripture the cassia is
only three times mentioned,180
twice as the translation of the Hebrew word kiddak, and once as the
rendering of ketzioth, but always as referring to an aromatic plant
which formed a constituent portion of some perfume. There is, indeed, strong
reason for believing that the cassia is only another name for a coarser
preparation of cinnamon, and it is also to be remarked that it did not grow
in Palestine, but was imported from the East.
The acacia, on the
contrary, was esteemed a sacred tree. It is the acacia vera of
Tournefort, and the mimosa nilotica of Linnæus. It grew abundantly in
the vicinity of Jerusalem,181
where it is still to be found, and is familiar to us all, in its modern uses
at least, as the tree from which the gum arabic of commerce is obtained.
The acacia, which, in
Scripture, is always called shittah182
and in the plural shittim, was esteemed a sacred wood among the
Hebrews. Of it Moses was ordered to make the tabernacle, the ark of the
covenant, the table for the showbread, and the rest of the sacred furniture.
Isaiah, in recounting the promises of God's mercy to the Israelites on their
return from the captivity, tells them, that, among other things, he will
plant in the wilderness, for their relief and refreshment, the cedar, the
acacia (or, as it is rendered in our common version, the shittah),
the fir, and other trees.
The first thing, then, that
we notice in this symbol of the acacia, is, that it had been always
consecrated from among the other trees of the forest by the sacred purposes
to which it was devoted. By the Jew the tree from whose wood the sanctuary
of the tabernacle and the holy ark had been constructed would ever be viewed
as more sacred than ordinary trees. The early Masons, therefore, very
naturally appropriated this hallowed plant to the equally sacred purpose of
a symbol which was to teach an important divine truth in all ages to come.
Having thus briefly disposed
of the natural history of this plant, we may now proceed to examine it in
its symbolic relations.
First. The acacia, in the
mythic system of Freemasonry, is preeminently the symbol of the IMMORTALITY
OF THE SOUL—that important doctrine which it is the great design of the
institution to teach. As the evanescent nature of the flower which "cometh
forth and is cut down" reminds us of the transitory nature of human life, so
the perpetual renovation of the evergreen plant, which uninterruptedly
presents the appearance of youth and vigor, is aptly compared to that
spiritual life in which the soul, freed from the corruptible companionship
of the body, shall enjoy an eternal spring and an immortal youth. Hence, in
the impressive funeral service of our order, it is said, "This evergreen is
an emblem of our faith in the immortality of the soul. By this we are
reminded that we have an immortal part within us, which shall survive the
grave, and which shall never, never, never die." And again, in the closing
sentences of the monitorial lecture of the Third Degree, the same sentiment
is repeated, and we are told that by "the ever green and ever living sprig"
the Mason is strengthened "with confidence and composure to look forward to
a blessed immortality." Such an interpretation of the symbol is an easy and
a natural one; it suggests itself at once to the least reflective mind, and
consequently, in some one form or another, is to be found existing in all
ages and nations. It was an ancient custom, which is not, even now,
altogether disused, for mourners to carry in their hands at funerals a sprig
of some evergreen, generally the cedar or the cypress, and to deposit it in
the grave of the deceased. According to Dalcho,183
the Hebrews always planted a sprig of the acacia at the head of the grave of
a departed friend. Potter tells us that the ancient Greeks "had a custom of
bedecking tombs with herbs and flowers."
184 All sorts of
purple and white flowers were acceptable to the dead, but principally the
amaranth and the myrtle. The very name of the former of these plants, which
signifies "never fading," would seem to indicate the true symbolic meaning
of the usage, although archaeologists have generally supposed it to be
simply an exhibition of love on the part of the survivors. Ragon says, that
the ancients substituted the acacia for all other plants because they
believed it to be incorruptible, and not liable to injury from the attacks
of any kind of insect or other animal—thus symbolizing the incorruptible
nature of the soul.
Hence we see the propriety of
placing the sprig of acacia, as an emblem of immortality, among the symbols
of that degree, all of whose ceremonies are intended to teach us the great
truth, that "the life of man, regulated by morality, faith, and justice,
will be rewarded at its closing hour by the prospect of eternal bliss."
185 So, therefore,
says Dr. Oliver, when the Master Mason exclaims, "My name is Acacia," it is
equivalent to saying, "I have been in the grave,—I have triumphed over it by
rising from the dead,—and being regenerated in the process, I have a claim
to life everlasting."
The sprig of acacia, then, in
its most ordinary signification, presents itself to the Master Mason as a
symbol of the immortality of the soul, being intended to remind him, by its
evergreen and unchanging nature, of that better and spiritual part within
us, which, as an emanation from the Grand Architect of the Universe, can
never die. And as this is the most ordinary, the most generally accepted
signification, so also is it the most important; for thus, as the peculiar
symbol of immortality, it becomes the most appropriate to an order all of
whose teachings are intended to inculcate the great lesson that "life rises
out of the grave." But incidental to this the acacia has two other
interpretations, which are well worthy of investigation.
Secondly, then, the acacia is
a symbol of INNOCENCE. The symbolism here is of a peculiar and unusual
character, depending not on any real analogy in the form or use of the
symbol to the idea symbolized, but simply on a double or compound meaning of
the word. For αϗαϗια, in the Greek language, signifies both the plant in
question and the moral quality of innocence or purity of life. In this sense
the symbol refers, primarily, to him over whose solitary grave the acacia
was planted, and whose virtuous conduct, whose integrity of life and
fidelity to his trusts, have ever been presented as patterns to the craft,
and consequently to all Master Masons, who, by this interpretation of the
symbol, are invited to emulate his example.
Hutchinson, indulging in his
favorite theory of Christianizing Masonry, when he comes to this
signification of the symbol, thus enlarges on the interpretation: "We
Masons, describing the deplorable estate of religion under the Jewish law,
speak in figures: 'Her tomb was in the rubbish and filth cast forth of the
temple, and Acacia wove its branches over her monument;' akakia
being the Greek word for innocence, or being free from sin; implying that
the sins and corruptions of the old law and devotees of the Jewish altar had
hid Religion from those who sought her, and she was only to be found where
innocence survived, and under the banner of the divine Lamb; and as
to ourselves, professing that we were to be distinguished by our Acacy,
or as true Acacians in our religious faith and tenets."
Among the nations of
antiquity, it was common thus by peculiar plants to symbolize the virtues
and other qualities of the mind. In many instances the symbolism has been
lost to the moderns, but in others it has been retained, and is well
understood, even at the present day. Thus the olive was adopted as the
symbol of peace, because, says Lee, "its oil is very useful, in some way or
other, in all arts manual which principally flourish in times of peace."
The quince among the Greeks
was the symbol of love and happiness;188
and hence, by the laws of Solon, in Athenian marriages, the bride and
bridegroom were required to eat a quince together.
The palm was the symbol of
and hence, in the catacombs of Rome, the burial-place of so many of the
early Christians, the palm leaf is constantly found as an emblem of the
Christian's triumph over sin and death.
The rosemary was a symbol of
remembrance, and hence was used both at marriages and at funerals, the
memory of the past being equally appropriate in both rites.190
The parsley was consecrated
to grief; and hence all the Greeks decked their tombs with it; and it was
used to crown the conquerors in the Nemean games, which were of a funereal
But it is needless to
multiply instances of this symbolism. In adopting the acacia as a symbol of
innocence, Masonry has but extended the principle of an ancient and
universal usage, which thus consecrated particular plants, by a mystical
meaning, to the representation of particular virtues.
But lastly, the acacia is to
be considered as the symbol of INITIATION. This is by far the most
interesting of its interpretations, and was, we have every reason to
believe, the primary and original, the others being but incidental. It leads
us at once to the investigation of that significant fact to which I have
already alluded, that in all the ancient initiations and religious mysteries
there was some plant, peculiar to each, which was consecrated by its own
esoteric meaning, and which occupied an important position in the
celebration of the rites; so that the plant, whatever it might be, from its
constant and prominent use in the ceremonies of initiation, came at length
to be adopted as the symbol of that initiation.
A reference to some of these
sacred plants—for such was the character they assumed—and an
investigation of their symbolism will not, perhaps, be uninteresting or
useless, in connection with the subject of the present article.
In the Mysteries of Adonis,
which originated in Phoenicia, and were afterwards transferred to Greece,
the death and resurrection of Adonis was represented. A part of the legend
accompanying these mysteries was, that when Adonis was slain by a wild boar,
Venus laid out the body on a bed of lettuce. In memorial of this supposed
fact, on the first day of the celebration, when funeral rites were
performed, lettuces were carried in the procession, newly planted in
shells of earth. Hence the lettuce became the sacred plant of the Adonia, or
The lotus was the sacred
plant of the Brahminical rites of India, and was considered as the symbol of
their elemental trinity,—earth, water, and air,—because, as an aquatic
plant, it derived its nutriment from all of these elements combined, its
roots being planted in the earth, its stem rising through the water, and its
leaves exposed to the air.192
The Egyptians, who borrowed a large portion of their religious rites from
the East, adopted the lotus, which was also indigenous to their country, as
a mystical plant, and made it the symbol of their initiation, or the birth
into celestial light. Hence, as Champollion observes, they often on their
monuments represented the god Phre, or the sun, as borne within the expanded
calyx of the lotus. The lotus bears a flower similar to that of the poppy,
while its large, tongue-shaped leaves float upon the surface of the water.
As the Egyptians had remarked that the plant expands when the sun rises, and
closes when it sets, they adopted it as a symbol of the sun; and as that
luminary was the principal object of the popular worship, the lotus became
in all their sacred rites a consecrated and mystical plant.
The Egyptians also selected
or heath, as a sacred plant. The origin of the consecration of this plant
presents us with a singular coincidence, that will be peculiarly interesting
to the masonic student. We are informed that there was a legend in the
mysteries of Osiris, which related, that Isis, when in search of the body of
her murdered husband, discovered it interred at the brow of a hill, near
which an erica, or heath plant, grew; and hence, after the recovery of the
body and the resurrection of the god, when she established the mysteries to
commemorate her loss and her recovery, she adopted the erica, as a sacred
memory of its having pointed out the spot where the mangled remains
of Osiris were concealed.195
The mistletoe was the
sacred plant of Druidism. Its consecrated character was derived from a
legend of the Scandinavian mythology, and which is thus related in the Edda,
or sacred books. The god Balder, the son of Odin, having dreamed that he was
in some great danger of life, his mother, Friga, exacted an oath from all
the creatures of the animal, the vegetable, and the mineral kingdoms, that
they would do no harm to her son. The mistletoe, contemptible from its size
and weakness, was alone neglected, and of it no oath of immunity was
demanded. Lok, the evil genius, or god of Darkness, becoming acquainted with
this fact, placed an arrow made of mistletoe in the hands of Holder, the
blind brother of Balder, on a certain day, when the gods were throwing
missiles at him in sport, and wondering at their inability to do him injury
with any arms with which they could attack him. But, being shot with the
mistletoe arrow, it inflicted a fatal wound, and Balder died.
Ever afterwards the mistletoe
was revered as a sacred plant, consecrated to the powers of darkness; and
annually it became an important rite among the Druids to proceed into the
forest in search of the mistletoe, which, being found, was cut down by the
Arch Druid, and its parts, after a solemn sacrifice, were distributed among
the people. Clavel196
very ingeniously remarks, that it is evident, in reference to the legend,
that as Balder symbolizes the Sun-god, and Lok, Darkness, this search for
the mistletoe was intended to deprive the god of Darkness of the power of
destroying the god of Light. And the distribution of the fragments of the
mistletoe among their pious worshippers, was to assure them that henceforth
a similar attempt of Lok would prove abortive, and he was thus deprived of
the means of effecting his design.197
The myrtle performed
the same office of symbolism in the Mysteries of Greece as the lotus did in
Egypt, or the mistletoe among the Druids. The candidate, in these
initiations, was crowned with myrtle, because, according to the popular
theology, the myrtle was sacred to Proserpine, the goddess of the future
life. Every classical scholar will remember the golden branch with which
Aeneas was supplied by the Sibyl, before proceeding on his journey to the
voyage which is now universally admitted to be a mythical representation of
the ceremonies of initiation.
In all of these ancient
Mysteries, while the sacred plant was a symbol of initiation, the initiation
itself was symbolic of the resurrection to a future life, and of the
immortality of the soul. In this view, Freemasonry is to us now in the place
of the ancient initiations, and the acacia is substituted for the lotus, the
erica, the ivy, the mistletoe, and the myrtle. The lesson of wisdom is the
same; the medium of imparting it is all that has been changed.
Returning, then, to the
acacia, we find that it is capable of three explanations. It is a symbol of
immortality, of innocence, and of initiation. But these three significations
are closely connected, and that connection must be observed, if we desire to
obtain a just interpretation of the symbol. Thus, in this one symbol, we are
taught that in the initiation of life, of which the initiation in the
third-degree is simply emblematic, innocence must for a time lie in the
grave, at length, however, to be called, by the word of the Grand Master of
the Universe, to a blissful immortality. Combine with this the recollection
of the place where the sprig of acacia was planted, and which I have
heretofore shown to be Mount Calvary, the place of sepulture of Him who
"brought life and immortality to light," and who, in Christian Masonry, is
designated, as he is in Scripture, as "the lion of the tribe of Judah," and
remember, too, that in the mystery of his death, the wood of the cross takes
the place of the acacia, and in this little and apparently insignificant
symbol, but which is really and truly the most important and significant one
in masonic science, we have a beautiful suggestion of all the mysteries of
life and death, of time and eternity, of the present and of the future. Thus
read (and thus all our symbols should be read), Masonry proves something
more to its disciples than a mere social society or a charitable
association. It becomes a "lamp to our feet," whose spiritual light shines
on the darkness of the deathbed, and dissipates the gloomy shadows of the
The Symbolism of Labor.
It is one of the most
beautiful features of the Masonic Institution, that it teaches not only the
necessity, but the nobility, of labor. Among the earliest of the implements
in whose emblematic use it instructs its neophytes is the Trestle Board, the
acknowledged symbol of the Divine Law, in accordance with whose decree199
labor was originally instituted as the common lot of all; and therefore the
important lesson that is closely connected with this symbol is, that to
labor well and truly, to labor honestly and persistently, is the object and
the chief end of all humanity.
To work out well the task
that is set before us is our highest duty, and should constitute our
greatest happiness. All men, then, must have their trestle boards; for the
principles that guide us in the discharge of our duty—the schemes that we
devise—the plans that we propose—are but the trestle board, whose designs we
follow, for good or for evil, in our labor of life.
Earth works with every coming
spring, and within its prolific bosom designs the bursting seed, the tender
plant, and the finished tree, upon its trestle board.
Old ocean works
forever—restless and murmuring—but still bravely working; and storms and
tempests, the purifiers of stagnant nature, are inscribed upon its trestle
And God himself, the Grand
Architect, the Master Builder of the world, has labored from eternity; and
working by his omnipotent will, he inscribes his plans upon illimitable
space, for the universe is his trestle board.
There was a saying of the
monks of old which is well worth meditation. They taught that "laborare
est orare"—labor is worship. They did not, it is true, always practise
the wise precept. They did not always make labor a part of their religion.
Like Onuphrius, who lived threescore years and ten in the desert, without
human voice or human sympathy to cheer him, because he had not learned that
man was made for man, those old ascetics went into the wilderness, and built
cells, and occupied themselves in solitary meditation and profitless
thought. They prayed much, but they did no work. And thus they passed their
lives, giving no pity, aid, or consolation to their fellow-men, adding no
mite to the treasury of human knowledge, and leaving the world, when their
selfish pilgrimage was finished, without a single contribution, in labor of
mind or body, to its welfare.200
And men, seeing the
uselessness of these ascetic lives, shrink now from their example, and fall
back upon that wiser teaching, that he best does God's will who best does
God's work. The world now knows that heaven is not served by man's
idleness—that the "dolce far niente," though it might suit an Italian
lazzaroni, is not fit for a brave Christian man, and that they who would do
rightly, and act well their part, must take this distich for their motto:—
"With this hand work, and
with the other pray,
And God will bless them both from day to day."
Now, this doctrine, that
labor is worship, is the very doctrine that has been advanced and
maintained, from time immemorial, as a leading dogma of the Order of
Freemasonry. There is no other human institution under the sun which has set
forth this great principle in such bold relief. We hear constantly of
Freemasonry as an institution that inculcates morality, that fosters the
social feeling, that teaches brotherly love; and all this is well, because
it is true; but we must never forget that from its foundation-stone to its
pinnacle, all over its vast temple, is inscribed, in symbols of living
light, the great truth that labor is worship.
It has been supposed that,
because we speak of Freemasonry as a speculative system, it has nothing to
do with the practical. But this is a most grievous error. Freemasonry is, it
is true, a speculative science, but it is a speculative science based upon
an operative art. All its symbols and allegories refer to this connection.
Its very language is borrowed from the art, and it is singularly suggestive
that the initiation of a candidate into its mysteries is called, in its
peculiar phraseology, work.
I repeat that this expression
is singularly suggestive. When the lodge is engaged in reading petitions,
hearing reports, debating financial matters, it is said to be occupied in
business; but when it is engaged in the form and ceremony of initiation
into any of the degrees, it is said to be at work. Initiation is
masonic labor. This phraseology at once suggests the connection of our
speculative system with an operative art that preceded it, and upon which it
has been founded. This operative art must have given it form and features
and organization. If the speculative system had been founded solely on
philosophical or ethical principles, if it had been derived from some
ancient or modern sect of philosophers,—from the Stoics, the Epicureans, or
the Platonists of the heathen world, or from any of the many divisions of
the scholastics of the middle ages,—this origin would most certainly have
affected its interior organization as well as its external form, and we
should have seen our modern masonic reunions assuming the style of academies
or schools. Its technical language—for, like every institution isolated from
the ordinary and general pursuits of mankind, it would have had its own
technical dialect—would have been borrowed from, and would be easily traced
to, the peculiar phraseology of the philosophic sects which had given it
birth. There would have been the sophists and the philosophers;
the grammatists and the grammarians; the scholars, the
masters, and the doctors. It would have had its trivial
and its quadrivial schools; its occupation would have been research,
experiment, or investigation; in a word, its whole features would have been
colored by a grammatical, a rhetorical, or a mathematical cast, accordingly
as it should have been derived from a sect in which any one of these three
characteristics was the predominating influence.
But in the organization of
Freemasonry, as it now presents itself to us, we see an entirely different
appearance. Its degrees are expressive, not of advancement in philosophic
attainments, but of progress in a purely mechanical pursuit. Its highest
grade is that of Master of the Work. Its places of meeting are not
schools, but lodges, places where the workmen formerly lodged, in the
neighborhood of the building on whose construction they were engaged. It
does not form theories, but builds temples. It knows nothing of the rules of
the dialecticians,—of the syllogism, the dilemma, the enthymeme, or the
sorites,—but it recurs to the homely implements of its operative parent for
its methods of instruction, and with the plumb-line it inculcates rectitude
of conduct, and draws lessons of morality from the workman's square. It sees
in the Supreme God that it worships, not a "numen divinum," a divine
power, nor a "moderator rerum omnium," a controller of all things, as
the old philosophers designated him, but a Grand Architect of the
Universe. The masonic idea of God refers to Him as the Mighty Builder of
this terrestrial globe, and all the countless worlds that surround it. He is
not the ens entium, or to theion, or any other of the thousand
titles with which ancient and modern speculation has invested him, but
simply the Architect,—as the Greeks have it, the ἀρχὸς, the chief
workman,—under whom we are all workmen also;201
and hence our labor is his worship.
This idea, then, of masonic
labor, is closely connected with the history of the organization of the
institution. When we say "the lodge is at work," we recognize that it is in
the legitimate practice of that occupation for which it was originally
intended. The Masons that are in it are not occupied in thinking, or
speculating, or reasoning, but simply and emphatically in working. The duty
of a Mason as such, in his lodge, is to work. Thereby he accomplishes the
destiny of his Order. Thereby he best fulfils his obligation to the Grand
Architect, for with the Mason laborare est orare—labor is worship.
The importance of masonic
labor being thus demonstrated, the question next arises as to the nature of
that labor. What is the work that a Mason is called upon to perform?
Temple building was the
original occupation of our ancient brethren. Leaving out of view that system
of ethics and of religious philosophy, that search after truth, those
doctrines of the unity of God and the immortality of the soul, which alike
distinguish the ancient Mysteries and the masonic institution, and which
both must have derived from a common origin,—most probably from some
priesthood of the olden time,—let our attention be exclusively directed, for
the present, to that period, so familiar to every Mason, when, under the
supposed Grand Mastership of King Solomon, Freemasonry first assumed "a
local habitation and a name" in the holy city of Jerusalem. There the labor
of the Israelites and the skill of the Tyrians were occupied in the
construction of that noble temple whose splendor and magnificence of
decoration made it one of the wonders of the world.
Here, then, we see the two
united nations directing their attention, with surprising harmony, to the
task of temple building. The Tyrian workmen, coming immediately from the
bosom of the mystical society of Dionysian artificers, whose sole employment
was the erection of sacred edifices throughout all Asia Minor, indoctrinated
the Jews with a part of their architectural skill, and bestowed upon them
also a knowledge of those sacred Mysteries which they had practised at Tyre,
and from which the present interior form of Freemasonry is said to be
Now, if there be any so
incredulous as to refuse their assent to the universally received masonic
tradition on this subject, if there be any who would deny all connection of
King Solomon with the origin of Freemasonry, except it be in a mythical or
symbolical sense, such incredulity will, not at all affect the chain of
argument which I am disposed to use. For it will not be denied that the
corporations of builders in the middle ages, those men who were known as "Travelling
Freemasons," were substantial and corporeal, and that the cathedrals,
abbeys, and palaces, whose ruins are still objects of admiration to all
observers, bear conclusive testimony that their existence was nothing like a
myth, and that their labors were not apocryphal. But these Travelling
Freemasons, whether led into the error, if error it be, by a mistaken
reading of history, or by a superstitious reverence for tradition, always
esteemed King Solomon as the founder of their Order. So that the first
absolutely historical details that we have of the masonic institution,
connect it with the idea of a temple. And it is only for this idea that I
contend, for it proves that the first Freemasons of whom we have authentic
record, whether they were at Jerusalem or in Europe, and whether they
flourished a thousand years before or a thousand years after the birth of
Christ, always supposed that temple building was the peculiar specialty of
their craft, and that their labor was to be the erection of temples in
ancient times, and cathedrals and churches in the Christian age.
So that we come back at last
to the proposition with which I had commenced, namely: that temple building
was the original occupation of our ancient brethren. And to this is added
the fact, that after a long lapse of centuries, a body of men is found in
the middle ages who were universally recognized as Freemasons, and who
directed their attention and their skill to the same pursuit, and were
engaged in the construction of cathedrals, abbeys, and other sacred
edifices, these being the Christian substitute for the heathen or the Jewish
And therefore, when we view
the history of the Order as thus developed in its origin and its design, we
are justified in saying that, in all times past, its members have been
recognized as men of labor, and that their labor has been temple building.
But our ancient brethren
wrought in both operative and speculative Masonry, while we work only in
speculative. They worked with the hand; we work with the brain. They dealt
in the material; we in the spiritual. They used in their labor wood and
stones; we use thoughts, and feelings, and affections. We both devote
ourselves to labor, but the object of the labor and the mode of the labor
The French rituals have given
us the key-note to the explanation of what is masonic labor when they say
that "Freemasons erect temples for virtue and dungeons for vice."
The modern Freemasons, like
the Masons of old, are engaged in the construction of a temple;—but with
this difference: that the temple of the latter was material, that of the
former spiritual. When the operative art was the predominant characteristic
of the Order, Masons were engaged in the construction of material and
earthly temples. But when the operative art ceased, and the speculative
science took its place, then the Freemasons symbolized the labors of their
predecessors by engaging in the construction of a spiritual temple in their
hearts, which was to be made so pure that it might become the dwelling-place
of Him who is all purity. It was to be "a house not made with hands," where
the hewn stone was to be a purified heart.
This symbolism, which
represents man as a temple, a house, a sacred building in which God is to
dwell, is not new, nor peculiar to the masonic science. It was known to the
Jewish, and is still recognized by the Christian, system. The Talmudists had
a saying that the threefold repetition of the words "Temple of Jehovah," in
the seventh chapter and fourth verse of the book of Jeremiah, was intended
to allude to the existence of three temples; and hence in one of their
treatises it is said, "Two temples have been destroyed, but the third will
endure forever," in which it is manifest that they referred to the temple of
the immortal soul in man.
By a similar allusion, which,
however, the Jews chose wilfully to misunderstand, Christ declared, "Destroy
this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." And the beloved
disciple, who records the conversation, does not allow us to doubt of the
"Then said the Jews, Forty
and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three
"But he spake of the temple
of his body." 202
In more than one place the
apostle Paul has fondly dwelt upon this metaphor. Thus he tells the
Corinthians that they are "God's building," and he calls himself the "wise
master builder," who was to lay the foundation in his truthful doctrine,
upon which they were to erect the edifice.203
And he says to them immediately afterwards, "Know ye not that ye are the
temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?"
In consequence of these
teachings of the apostles, the idea that the body was a temple has pervaded,
from the earliest times to the present day, the system of Christian or
theological symbolism. Indeed, it has sometimes been carried to an almost
too fanciful excess. Thus Samuel Lee, in that curious and rare old work, "The
Temple of Solomon, pourtrayed by Scripture Light," thus dilates on this
symbolism of the temple:—
"The foundation of
this temple may be laid in humility and contrition of spirit, wherein the
inhabiter of eternity delighteth to dwell; we may refer the porch to
the mouth of a saint, wherein every holy Jacob erects the pillars of
God's praise, calling upon and blessing his name for received mercies; when
songs of deliverance are uttered from the doors of his lips. The
holy place is the renewed mind, and the windows therein may
denote divine illumination from above, cautioning a saint lest they be
darkened with the smoke of anger, the mist of grief, the dust of vain-glory,
or the filthy mire of worldly cares. The golden candlesticks, the
infused habits of divine knowledge resting within the soul. The shew-bread,
the word of grace exhibited in the promises for the preservation of a
Christian's life and glory. The golden altar of odors, the
breathings, sufferings, and groanings after God, ready to break forth into
Abba, Father. The veiles, the righteousness of Christ. The holy of
holies may relate to the conscience purified from dead works and brought
into a heavenly frame."
204 And thus he proceeds, symbolizing every part and utensil of
the temple as alluding to some emotion or affection of man, but in language
too tedious for quotation.
In a similar vein has the
celebrated John Bunyan, the author of the "Pilgrim's Progress"
proceeded in his "Temple of Solomon Spiritualized" to refer every
part of that building to a symbolic meaning, selecting, however, the church,
or congregation of good men, rather than the individual man, as the object
of the symbolism.
In the middle ages the
Hermetic philosophers seem to have given the same interpretation of the
temple, and Swedenborg, in his mystical writings, adopts the idea.
Hitchcock, who has written an
admirable little work on Swedenborg considered as a Hermetic Philosopher,
thus alludes to this subject, and his language, as that of a learned and
shrewd investigator, is well worthy of quotation:—
"With, perhaps, the majority
of readers, the Tabernacle of Moses and the Temple of Solomon were mere
buildings; very magnificent indeed, but still mere buildings for the worship
of God. But some are struck with many portions of the account of their
erection, admitting a moral interpretation; and while the buildings are
allowed to stand (or to have stood once) visible objects, these interpreters
are delighted to meet with indications that Moses and Solomon, in building
the temples, were wise in the knowledge of God and of man; from which point
it is not difficult to pass on to the moral meaning altogether, and to
affirm that the building which was erected without 'the noise of a hammer or
axe, or any tool of iron,' was altogether a moral building—a building of
God, not made with hands: in short, many see in the story of Solomon's
temple a symbolical representation of MAN as the temple of God, with its
holy of holies deep-seated in the centre of the human heart."
The French Masons have not
been inattentive to this symbolism. Their already quoted expression that the
"Freemasons build temples for virtue and dungeons for vice," has very
clearly a reference to it, and their most distinguished writers never lose
sight of it.
Thus Ragon, one of the most
learned of the French historians of Freemasonry, in his lecture to the
Apprentice, says that the founders of our Order "called themselves Masons,
and proclaimed that they were building a temple to truth and virtue."
subsequently he addresses the candidate who has received the Master's degree
in the following language:—
"Profit by all that has been
revealed to you. Improve your heart and your mind. Direct your passions to
the general good; combat your prejudices; watch over your thoughts and your
actions; love, enlighten, and assist your brethren; and you will have
perfected that temple of which you are at once the architect,
the material, and the workman."
Rebold, another French
historian of great erudition, says, "If Freemasonry has ceased to erect
temples, and by the aid of its architectural designs to elevate all hearts
to the Deity, and all eyes and hopes to heaven, it has not therefore
desisted from its work of moral and intellectual building;" and he thinks
that the success of the institution has justified this change of purpose and
the disruption of the speculative from the operative character of the Order.208
Eliphas Levi, who has written
abstrusely and mystically on Freemasonry and its collateral sciences, sees
very clearly an allegorical and a real design in the institution, the former
being the rebuilding of the temple of Solomon, and the latter the
improvement of the human race by a reconstruction of its social and
The Masons of Germany have
elaborated this idea with all the exhaustiveness that is peculiar to the
German mind, and the masonic literature of that country abounds in essays,
lectures, and treatises, in which the prominent topic is this building of
the Solomonic temple as referring to the construction of a moral temple.
Thus writes Bro. Rhode, of
"So soon as any one has
received the consecration of our Order, we say to him that we are building a
mystical temple;" and he adds that "this temple which we Masons are building
is nothing else than that which will conduce to the greatest possible
happiness of mankind."
And another German brother,
Von Wedekind, asserts that "we only labor in our temple when we make man our
predominating object, when we unite goodness of heart with polished manners,
truth with beauty, virtue with grace."
Again we have Reinhold
telling us, in true Teutonic expansiveness of expression, that "by the
mystical Solomonic temple we are to understand the high ideal or archetype
of humanity in the best possible condition of social improvement, wherein
every evil inclination is overcome, every passion is resolved into the
spirit of love, and wherein each for all, and all for each, kindly strive to
And thus the German Masons
call this striving for an almost millennial result labor in the temple.
The English Masons, although
they have not treated the symbolism of the Order with the same abstruse
investigation that has distinguished those of Germany and France, still have
not been insensible to this idea that the building of the Solomonic temple
is intended to indicate a cultivation of the human character. Thus
Hutchinson, one of the earliest of the symbolic writers of England, shows a
very competent conception—for the age in which he lived—of the mystical
meaning of the temple; and later writers have improved upon his crude views.
It must, however, be acknowledged that neither Hutchinson nor Oliver, nor
any other of the distinguished masonic writers of England, has dwelt on this
peculiar symbolism of a moral temple with that earnest appreciation of the
idea that is to be found in the works of the French and German Masons. But
although the allusions are rather casual and incidental, yet the symbolic
theory is evidently recognized.213
Our own country has produced
many students of Masonic symbolism, who have thoroughly grasped this noble
thought, and treated it with eloquence and erudition.
Fifty years ago Salem Towne
wrote thus: "Speculative Masonry, according to present acceptation, has an
ultimate reference to that spiritual building erected by virtue in the
heart, and summarily implies the arrangement and perfection of those holy
and sublime principles by which the soul is fitted for a meet temple of God
in a world of immortality."
Charles Scott has devoted one
of the lectures in his "Analogy of Ancient Craft Masonry to Natural and
Revealed Religion" to a thorough consideration of this subject. The language
is too long for quotation, but the symbol has been well interpreted by him.215
Still more recently, Bro.
John A. Loclor has treated the topic in an essay, which I regret has not had
a larger circulation. A single and brief passage may show the spirit of the
production, and how completely it sustains the idea of this symbolism.
"We may disguise it as we
will," says Bro. Lodor, "we may evade a scrutiny of it; but our character,
as it is, with its faults and blemishes, its weaknesses and infirmities, its
vices and its stains, together with its redeeming traits, its better parts,
is our speculative temple." And he goes on to extend the symbolic idea:
"Like the exemplar temple on Mount Moriah, it should be preserved as a
hallowed shrine, and guarded with the same vigilant care. It should be our
pearl of price set round with walls and enclosures, even as was the Jewish
temple, and the impure, the vicious, the guilty, and the profane be banished
from even its outer courts. A faithful sentinel should be placed at every
gate, a watchman on every wall, and the first approach of a cowan and
eavesdropper be promptly met and resisted."
Teachings like this are now
so common that every American Mason who has studied the symbolism of his
Order believes, with Carlyle, that "there is but one temple in the world,
and that is the body of man."
This inquiry into the meaning
and object of labor, as a masonic symbol, brings us to these conclusions:—
1. That our ancient brethren
worked as long as the operative art predominated in the institution at
material temples, the most prominent of these being the temple of King
2. That when the speculative
science took the place of the operative art, the modern Masons, working no
longer at material temples, but holding still to the sacred thought, the
reverential idea, of a holy temple, a Lord's house to be built, began to
labor at living temples, and to make man, the true house of the Lord, the
tabernacle for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
And, 3. Therefore to every
Freemason who rightly comprehends his art, this construction of a living
temple is his labor.
"Labor," says Gadicke, the
German masonic lexicographer, "is an important word in Masonry; indeed, we
might say the most important. For this, and this alone, does a man become a
Freemason. Every other object is secondary or incidental. Labor is the
accustomed design of every lodge meeting. But does such meeting always
furnish evidence of industry? The labor of an operative mason will be
visible, and he will receive his reward for it, even though the building he
has constructed may, in the next hour, be overthrown by a tempest. He knows
that he has done his labor. And so must the Freemason labor. His labor must
be visible to himself and to his brethren, or, at least, it must conduce to
his own internal satisfaction. As we build neither a visible Solomonic
temple nor an Egyptian pyramid, our industry must become visible in works
that are imperishable, so that when we vanish from the eyes of mortals it
may be said of us that our labor was well done."
And remembering what the
apostle has said, that we are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God
dwelleth in us, we know that our labor is so to build that temple that it
shall become worthy of its divine Dweller.
And thus, too, at last, we
can understand the saying of the old monks that "labor is worship;" and as
Masons we labor in our lodge, labor to make ourselves a perfect building,
without blemish, working hopefully for the consummation, when the house of
our earthly tabernacle shall be finished, when the LOST WORD of divine truth
shall at last be discovered, and when we shall be found by our own efforts
at perfection to have done God service. For so truly is the meaning of those
noble words—LABOR IS WORSHIP.
The Stone of Foundation.216
The Stone of Foundation
constitutes one of the most important and abstruse of all the symbols of
Freemasonry. It is referred to in numerous legends and traditions, not only
of the Freemasons, but also of the Jewish Rabbins, the Talmudic writers, and
even the Mussulman doctors. Many of these, it must be confessed, are
apparently puerile and absurd; but some of them, and especially the masonic
ones, are deeply interesting in their allegorical signification.
The Stone of Foundation is,
properly speaking, a symbol of the higher degrees. It makes its first
appearance in the Royal Arch, and forms, indeed, the most important symbol
of that degree. But it is so intimately connected, in its legendary history,
with the construction of the Solomonic temple, that it must be considered as
a part of Ancient Craft Masonry, although he who confines the range of his
investigations to the first three degrees, will have no means, within that
narrow limit, of properly appreciating the symbolism of the Stone of
As preliminary to the inquiry
which is about to be instituted, it is necessary to distinguish the Stone of
Foundation, both in its symbolism and in its legendary history, from other
stones which play an important part in the masonic ritual, but which are
entirely distinct from it. Such are the corner-stone, which was
always placed in the north-east corner of the building about to be erected,
and to which such a beautiful reference is made in the ceremonies of the
first degree; or the keystone, which constitutes an interesting part
of the Mark Master's degree; or, lastly, the cape-stone, upon which
all the ritual of the Most Excellent Master's degree is founded. These are
all, in their proper places, highly interesting and instructive symbols, but
have no connection whatever with the Stone of Foundation or its symbolism.
Nor, although the Stone of Foundation is said, for peculiar reasons, to have
been of a cubical form, must it be confounded with that stone called by the
continental Masons the cubical stone—the pierre cubique of the
French, and the cubik stein of the German Masons, but which in the
English system is known as the perfect ashlar.
The Stone of Foundation has a
legendary history and a symbolic signification which are peculiar to itself,
and which differ from the history and meaning which belong to these other
Let us first define this
masonic Stone of Foundation, then collate the legends which refer to it, and
afterwards investigate its significance as a symbol. To the Mason who takes
a pleasure in the study of the mysteries of his institution, the
investigation cannot fail to be interesting, if it is conducted with any
But in the very beginning, as
a necessary preliminary to any investigation of this kind, it must be
distinctly understood that all that is said of this Stone of Foundation in
Masonry is to be strictly taken in a mythical or allegorical sense. Dr.
Oliver, the most learned of our masonic writers, while undoubtedly himself
knowing that it was simply a symbol, has written loosely of it, as though it
were a substantial reality; and hence, if the passages in his "Historical
Landmarks," and in his other works which refer to this celebrated stone are
accepted by his readers in a literal sense, they will present absurdities
and puerilities which would not occur if the Stone of Foundation was
received, as it really is, as a philosophical myth, conveying a most
profound and beautiful symbolism. Read in this spirit, as all the legends of
Masonry should be read, the mythical story of the Stone of Foundation
becomes one of the most important and interesting of all the masonic
The Stone of Foundation is
supposed, by the theory which establishes it, to have been a stone placed at
one time within the foundations of the temple of Solomon, and afterwards,
during the building of the second temple, transported to the Holy of Holies.
It was in form a perfect cube, and had inscribed upon its upper face, within
a delta or triangle, the sacred tetragrammaton, or ineffable name of God.
Oliver, speaking with the solemnity of an historian, says that Solomon
thought that he had rendered the house of God worthy, so far as human
adornment could effect, for the dwelling of God, "when he had placed the
celebrated Stone of Foundation, on which the sacred name was mystically
engraven, with solemn ceremonies, in that sacred depository on Mount Moriah,
along with the foundations of Dan and Asher, the centre of the Most Holy
Place, where the ark was overshadowed by the shekinah of God."
217 The Hebrew
Talmudists, who thought as much of this stone, and had as many legends
concerning it as the masonic Talmudists, called it eben shatijah218
or "Stone of Foundation," because, as they said, it had been laid by Jehovah
as the foundation of the world; and hence the apocryphal book of Enoch
speaks of the "stone which supports the corners of the earth."
This idea of a foundation
stone of the world was most probably derived from that magnificent passage
of the book of Job, in which the Almighty demands of the afflicted
"Where wast thou, when I
laid the foundation of the earth?
Declare, since thou hast such knowledge!
Who fixed its dimensions, since thou knowest?
Or who stretched out the line upon it?
Upon what were its foundations fixed?
And who laid its corner-stone,
When the morning stars sang together,
And all the sons of God shouted for joy?"
Noyes, whose beautiful
translation I have adopted as not materially differing from the common
version, but which is far more poetical and more in the strain of the
original, thus explains the allusions to the foundation-stone: "It was the
custom to celebrate the laying of the corner-stone of an important building
with music, songs, shouting, &c. Hence the morning stars are represented as
celebrating the laying of the corner-stone of the earth."
Upon this meagre statement
have been accumulated more traditions than appertain to any other masonic
symbol. The Rabbins, as has already been intimated, divide the glory of
these apocryphal histories with the Masons; indeed, there is good reason for
a suspicion that nearly all the masonic legends owe their first existence to
the imaginative genius of the writers of the Jewish Talmud. But there is
this difference between the Hebrew and the masonic traditions, that the
Talmudic scholar recited them as truthful histories, and swallowed, in one
gulp of faith, all their impossibilities and anachronisms, while the masonic
student has received them as allegories, whose value is not in the facts,
but in the sentiments which they convey.
With this understanding of
their meaning, let us proceed to a collation of these legends.
In that blasphemous work, the
"Toldoth Jeshu" or Life of Jesus, written, it is supposed, in
the thirteenth or fourteenth century, we find the following account of this
"At that time [the time of
Jesus] there was in the House of the Sanctuary [that is, the temple] a Stone
of Foundation, which is the very stone that our father Jacob anointed with
oil, as it is described in the twenty-eighth chapter of the book of Genesis.
On that stone the letters of the tetragrammaton were inscribed, and
whosoever of the Israelites should learn that name would be able to master
the world. To prevent, therefore, any one from learning these letters, two
iron dogs were placed upon two columns in front of the Sanctuary. If any
person, having acquired the knowledge of these letters, desired to depart
from the Sanctuary, the barking of the dogs, by magical power, inspired so
much fear, that he suddenly forgot what he had acquired."
This passage is cited by the
learned Buxtorf, in his "Lexicon Talmudicum;"
221 but in the copy
of the "Toldoth Jeshu" which I have the good fortune to possess (for
it is among the rarest of books), I find another passage which gives some
additional particulars, in the following words:—
"At that time there was in
the temple the ineffable name of God, inscribed upon the Stone of
Foundation. For when King David was digging the foundation for the temple,
he found in the depths of the excavation a certain stone, on which the name
of God was inscribed. This stone he removed, and deposited it in the Holy of
The same puerile story of the
barking dogs is repeated, still more at length. It is not pertinent to the
present inquiry, but it may be stated as a mere matter of curious
information, that this scandalous book, which is throughout a blasphemous
defamation of our Saviour, proceeds to say, that he cunningly obtained a
knowledge of the tetragrammaton from the Stone of Foundation, and by its
mystical influence was enabled to perform his miracles.
The masonic legends of the
Stone of Foundation, based on these and other rabbinical reveries, are of
the most extraordinary character, if they are to be viewed as histories, but
readily reconcilable with sound sense, if looked at only in the light of
allegories. They present an uninterrupted succession of events, in which the
Stone of Foundation takes a prominent part, from Adam to Solomon, and from
Solomon to Zerubbabel.
Thus the first of these
legends, in order of time, relates that the Stone of Foundation was
possessed by Adam while in the garden of Eden; that he used it as an altar,
and so reverenced it, that, on his expulsion from Paradise, he carried it
with him into the world in which he and his descendants were afterwards to
earn their bread by the sweat of their brow.
Another legend informs us
that from Adam the Stone of Foundation descended to Seth. From Seth it
passed by regular succession to Noah, who took it with him into the ark, and
after the subsidence of the deluge, made on it his first thank-offering.
Noah left it on Mount Ararat, where it was subsequently found by Abraham,
who removed it, and consequently used it as an altar of sacrifice. His
grandson Jacob took it with him when he fled to his uncle Laban in
Mesopotamia, and used it as a pillow when, in the vicinity of Luz, he had
his celebrated vision.
Here there is a sudden
interruption in the legendary history of the stane, and we have no means of
conjecturing how it passed from the possession of Jacob into that of
Solomon. Moses, it is true, is said to have taken it with him out of Egypt
at the time of the exodus, and thus it may have finally reached Jerusalem.
Dr. Adam Clarke223
repeats what he very properly calls "a foolish tradition," that the stone on
which Jacob rested his head was afterwards brought to Jerusalem, thence
carried after a long lapse of time to Spain, from Spain to Ireland, and from
Ireland to Scotland, where it was used as a seat on which the kings of
Scotland sat to be crowned. Edward I., we know, brought a stone, to which
this legend is attached, from Scotland to Westminster Abbey, where, under
the name of Jacob's Pillow, it still remains, and is always placed under the
chair upon which the British sovereign sits to be crowned, because there is
an old distich which declares that wherever this stone is found the Scottish
kings shall reign.224
But this Scottish tradition
would take the Stone of Foundation away from all its masonic connections,
and therefore it is rejected as a masonic legend.
The legends just related are
in many respects contradictory and unsatisfactory, and another series,
equally as old, are now very generally adopted by masonic scholars, as much
better suited to the symbolism by which all these legends are explained.
This series of legends
commences with the patriarch Enoch, who is supposed to have been the first
consecrator of the Stone of Foundation. The legend of Enoch is so
interesting and important in masonic science as to excuse something more
than a brief reference to the incidents which it details.
The legend in full is as
follows: Enoch, under the inspiration of the Most High, and in obedience to
the instructions which he had received in a vision, built a temple under
ground on Mount Moriah, and dedicated it to God. His son, Methuselah,
constructed the building, although he was not acquainted with his father's
motives for the erection. This temple consisted of nine vaults, situated
perpendicularly beneath each other, and communicating by apertures left in
Enoch then caused a
triangular plate of gold to be made, each side of which was a cubit long; he
enriched it with the most precious stones, and encrusted the plate upon a
stone of agate of the same form. On the plate he engraved the true name of
God, or the tetragrammaton, and placing it on a cubical stone, known
thereafter as the Stone of Foundation, he deposited the whole within the
When this subterranean
building was completed, he made a door of stone, and attaching to it a ring
of iron, by which it might be occasionally raised, he placed it over the
opening of the uppermost arch, and so covered it that the aperture could not
be discovered. Enoch himself was not permitted to enter it but once a year,
and after the days of Enoch, Methuselah, and Lamech, and the destruction of
the world by the deluge, all knowledge of the vault or subterranean temple,
and of the Stone of Foundation, with the sacred and ineffable name inscribed
upon it, was lost for ages to the world.
At the building of the first
temple of Jerusalem, the Stone of Foundation again makes its appearance.
Reference has already been made to the Jewish tradition that David, when
digging the foundations of the temple, found in the excavation which he was
making a certain stone, on which the ineffable name of God was inscribed,
and which stone he is said to have removed and deposited in the Holy of
Holies. That King David laid the foundations of the temple upon which the
superstructure was subsequently erected by Solomon, is a favorite theory of
the legend-mongers of the Talmud.
The masonic tradition is
substantiallv the same as the Jewish, but it substitutes Solomon for David,
thereby giving a greater air of probability to the narrative; and it
supposes that the stone thus discovered by Solomon was the identical one
that had been deposited in his secret vault by Enoch. This Stone of
Foundation, the tradition states, was subsequently removed by King Solomon,
and, for wise purposes, deposited in a secret and safer place.
In this the masonic tradition
again agrees with the Jewish, for we find in the third chapter of the "Treatise
on the Temple" written by the celebrated Maimonides, the following
"There was a stone in the
Holy of Holies, on its west side, on which was placed the ark of the
covenant, and before it the pot of manna and Aaron's rod. But when Solomon
had built the temple, and foresaw that it was, at some future time, to be
destroyed, he constructed a deep and winding vault under ground, for the
purpose of concealing the ark, wherein Josiah afterwards, as we learn in the
Second Book of Chronicles, xxxv. 3, deposited it, with the pot of manna, the
rod of Aaron, and the oil of anointing."
The Talmudical book "Yoma"
gives the same tradition, and says that "the ark of the covenant was placed
in the centre of the Holy of Holies, upon a stone rising three fingers'
breadth above the floor, to be, as it were, a pedestal for it." "This
stone," says Prideaux,225
"the Rabbins call the Stone of Foundation, and give us a great deal of trash
There is much controversy as
to the question of the existence of any ark in the second temple. Some of
the Jewish writers assert that a new one was made; others, that the old one
was found where it had been concealed by Solomon; and others again contend
that there was no ark at all in the temple of Zerubbabel, but that its place
was supplied by the Stone of Foundation on which it had originally rested.
Royal Arch Masons well know
how all these traditions are sought to be reconciled by the masonic legend,
in which the substitute ark and the Stone of Foundation play so important a
In the thirteenth degree of
the Ancient and Accepted Rite, the Stone of Foundation is conspicuous as the
resting-place of the sacred delta.
In the Royal Arch and Select
Master's degrees of the Americanized York Rite, the Stone of Foundation
constitutes the most important part of the ritual. In both of these it is
the receptacle of the ark, on which the ineffable name is inscribed.
Lee, in his "Temple of
Solomon", has devoted a chapter to this Stone of Foundation, and thus
recapitulates the Talmudic and Rabbinical traditions on the subject:—
"Vain and futilous are the
feverish dreams of the ancient Rabbins concerning the Foundation Stone of
the temple. Some assert that God placed this stone in the centre of the
world, for a future basis and settled consistency for the earth to rest
upon. Others held this stone to be the first matter, out of which all the
beautiful visible beings of the world have been hewn forth and produced to
light. Others relate that this was the very same stone laid by Jacob for a
pillow under his head, in that night when he dreamed of an angelic vision at
Bethel, and afterwards anointed and consecrated it to God. Which when
Solomon had found (no doubt by forged revelation, or some tedious search,
like another Rabbi Selemoh), he durst not but lay it sure, as the principal
foundation stone of the temple. Nay, they say further, he caused to be
engraved upon it the tetragrammaton, or the ineffable name of Jehovah."
It will be seen that the
masonic traditions on the subject of the Stone of Foundation do not differ
very materially from these Rabbinical ones, although they give a few
In the masonic legend, the
Foundation Stone first makes its appearance, as I have already said, in the
days of Enoch, who placed it in the bowels of Mount Moriah. There it was
subsequently discovered by King Solomon, who deposited it in a crypt of the
first temple, where it remained concealed until the foundations of the
second temple were laid, when it was discovered and removed to the Holy of
Holies. But the most important point of the legend of the Stone of
Foundation is its intimate and constant connection with the tetragrammaton,
or ineffable name. It is this name, inscribed upon it, within the sacred and
symbolic delta, that gives to the stone all its masonic value and
significance. It is upon this fact, that it was so inscribed, that its whole
Looking at these traditions
in anything like the light of historical narratives, we are compelled to
consider them, to use the plain language of Lee, "but as so many idle and
absurd conceits." We must go behind the legend, viewing it only as an
allegory, and study its symbolism.
The symbolism of the
Foundation Stone of Masonry is therefore the next subject of investigation.
In approaching this, the most
abstruse, and one of the most important, symbols of the Order, we are at
once impressed with its apparent connection with the ancient doctrine of
stone worship. Some brief consideration of this species of religious culture
is therefore necessary for a proper understanding of the real symbolism of
the Stone of Foundation.
The worship of stones is a
kind of fetichism, which in the very infancy of religion prevailed, perhaps,
more extensively than any other form of religious culture. Lord Kames
explains the fact by supposing that stones erected as monuments of the dead
became the place where posterity paid their veneration to the memory of the
deceased, and that at length the people, losing sight of the emblematical
signification, which was not readily understood, these monumental stones
became objects of worship.
Others have sought to find
the origin of stone-worship in the stone that was set up and anointed by
Jacob at Bethel, and the tradition of which had extended into the heathen
nations and become corrupted. It is certain that the Phoenicians worshipped
sacred stones under the name of Baetylia, which word is evidently
derived from the Hebrew Bethel; and this undoubtedly gives some
appearance of plausibility to the theory.
But a third theory supposes
that the worship of stones was derived from the unskilfulness of the
primitive sculptors, who, unable to frame, by their meagre principles of
plastic art, a true image of the God whom they adored, were content to
substitute in its place a rude or scarcely polished stone. Hence the Greeks,
according to Pausanias, originally used unhewn stones to represent their
deities, thirty of which that historian says he saw in the city of Pharas.
These stones were of a cubical form, and as the greater number of them were
dedicated to the god Hermes, or Mercury, they received the generic name of
Hermaa. Subsequently, with the improvement of the plastic art, the
head was added.227
One of these consecrated
stones was placed before the door of almost every house in Athens. They were
also placed in front of the temples, in the gymnasia or schools, in
libraries, and at the corners of streets, and in the roads. When dedicated
to the god Terminus they were used as landmarks, and placed as such upon the
concurrent lines of neighboring possessions.
The Thebans worshipped
Bacchus under the form of a rude, square stone.
says that Cybele was represented by a small stone of a black color. Eusebius
cites Porphyry as saying that the ancients represented the deity by a black
stone, because his nature is obscure and inscrutable. The reader will here
be reminded of the black stone Hadsjar el Aswad, placed in the
south-west corner of the Kaaba at Mecca, which was worshipped by the ancient
Arabians, and is still treated with religious veneration by the modern
Mohammedans. The Mussulman priests, however, say that it was originally
white, and of such surprising splendor that it could be seen at the distance
of four days' journey, but that it has been blackened by the tears of
The Druids, it is well known,
had no other images of their gods but cubical, or sometimes columnar,
stones, of which Toland gives several instances.
The Chaldeans had a sacred
stone, which they held in great veneration, under the name of Mnizuris,
and to which they sacrificed for the purpose of evoking the Good Demon.
Stone-worship existed among
the early American races. Squier quotes Skinner as asserting that the
Peruvians used to set up rough stones in their fields and plantations, which
were worshipped as protectors of their crops. And Gam a says that in Mexico
the presiding god of the spring was often represented without a human body,
and in place thereof a pilaster or square column, whose pedestal was covered
with various sculptures.
Indeed, so universal was this
stone-worship, that Higgins, in his "Celtic Druids," says that,
"throughout the world the first object of idolatry seems to have been a
plain, unwrought stone, placed in the ground, as an emblem of the generative
or procreative powers of nature." And the learned Bryant, in his "Analysis
of Ancient Mythology," asserts that "there is in every oracular temple
some legend about a stone."
Without further citations of
examples from the religious usages of other countries, it will, I think, be
conceded that the cubical stone formed an important part of the religious
worship of primitive nations. But Cudworth, Bryant, Faber, and all other
distinguished writers who have treated the subject, have long since
established the theory that the pagan religions were eminently symbolic.
Thus, to use the language of Dudley, the pillar or stone "was adopted as a
symbol of strength and firmness,—a symbol, also, of the divine power, and,
by a ready inference, a symbol or idol of the Deity himself."
229 And this
symbolism is confirmed by Cornutus, who says that the god Hermes was
represented without hands or feet, being a cubical stone, because the
cubical figure betokened his solidity and stability.230
Thus, then, the following
facts have been established, but not precisely in this order: First, that
there was a very general prevalence among the earliest nations of antiquity
of the worship of stones as the representatives of Deity; secondly, that in
almost every ancient temple there was a legend of a sacred or mystical
stone; thirdly, that this legend is found in the masonic system; and lastly,
that the mystical stone there has received the name of the "Stone of
Now, as in all the other
systems the stone is admitted to be symbolic, and the tradition connected
with it mystical, we are compelled to assume the same predicates of the
masonic stone. It, too, is symbolic, and its legend a myth or an allegory.
Of the fable, myth, or
allegory, Bailly has said that, "subordinate to history and philosophy, it
only deceives that it may the better instruct us. Faithful in preserving the
realities which are confided to it, it covers with its seductive envelope
the lessons of the one and the truths of the other."
231 It is from this
stand-point that we are to view the allegory of the Stone of Foundation, as
developed in one of the most interesting and important symbols of Masonry.
The fact that the mystical
stone in all the ancient religions was a symbol of the Deity, leads us
necessarily to the conclusion that the Stone of Foundation was also a symbol
of Deity. And this symbolic idea is strengthened by the tetragrammaton, or
sacred name of God, that was inscribed upon it. This ineffable name
sanctifies the stone upon which it is engraved as the symbol of the Grand
Architect. It takes from it its heathen signification as an idol, and
consecrates it to the worship of the true God.
The predominant idea of the
Deity, in the masonic system, connects him with his creative and formative
power. God is, to the Freemason, Al Gabil, as the Arabians called
him, that is, The Builder; or, as expressed in his masonic title, the
Grand Architect of the Universe, by common consent abbreviated in the
formula G.A.O.T.U. Now, it is evident that no symbol could so appropriately
suit him in this character as the Stone of Foundation, upon which he is
allegorically supposed to have erected his world. Such a symbol closely
connects the creative work of God, as a pattern and exemplar, with the
workman's erection of his temporal building on a similar foundation stone.
But this masonic idea is
still further to be extended. The great object of all Masonic labor is
divine truth. The search for the lost word is the search for
truth. But divine truth is a term synonymous with God. The ineffable name is
a symbol of truth, because God, and God alone, is truth. It is properly a
scriptural idea. The Book of Psalms abounds with this sentiment. Thus it is
said that the truth of the Lord "reacheth unto the clouds," and that "his
truth endureth unto all generations." If, then, God is truth, and the Stone
of Foundation is the masonic symbol of God, it follows that it must also be
the symbol of divine truth.
When we have arrived at this
point in our speculations, we are ready to show how all the myths and
legends of the Stone of Foundation may be rationally explained as parts of
that beautiful "science of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by
symbols," which is the acknowledged definition of Freemasonry.
In the masonic system there
are two temples; the first temple, in which the degrees of Ancient Craft
Masonry are concerned, and the second temple, with which the higher degrees,
and especially the Royal Arch, are related. The first temple is symbolic of
the present life; the second temple is symbolic of the life to come. The
first temple, the present life, must be destroyed; on its foundations the
second temple, the life eternal, must be built.
But the mystical stone was
placed by King Solomon in the foundations of the first temple. That is to
say, the first temple of our present life must be built on the sure
foundation of divine truth, "for other foundation can no man lay."
But although the present life
is necessarily built upon the foundation of truth, yet we never thoroughly
attain it in this sublunary sphere. The Foundation Stone is concealed in the
first temple, and the Master Mason knows it not. He has not the true word.
He receives only a substitute.
But in the second temple of
the future life, we have passed from the grave, which had been the end of
our labors in the first. We have removed the rubbish, and have found that
Stone of Foundation which had been hitherto concealed from our eyes. We now
throw aside the substitute for truth which had contented us in the former
temple, and the brilliant effulgence of the tetragrammaton and the Stone of
Foundation are discovered, and thenceforth we are the possessors of the true
word—of divine truth. And in this way, the Stone of Foundation, or divine
truth, concealed in the first temple, but discovered and brought to light in
the second, will explain that passage of the apostle, "For now we see
through a glass darkly, but then face to face: now I know in part; but then
shall I know even as also I am known."
And so, the result of this
inquiry is, that the masonic Stone of Foundation is a symbol of divine
truth, upon which all Speculative Masonry is built, and the legends and
traditions which refer to it are intended to describe, in an allegorical
way, the progress of truth in the soul, the search for which is a Mason's
labor, and the discovery of which is his reward.
The Lost Word.
The last of the symbols,
depending for its existence on its connection with a myth to which I shall
invite attention, is the Lost Word, and the search for it. Very
appropriately may this symbol terminate our investigations, since it
includes within its comprehensive scope all the others, being itself the
very essence of the science of masonic symbolism. The other symbols require
for their just appreciation a knowledge of the origin of the order, because
they owe their birth to its relationship with kindred and anterior
institutions. But the symbolism of the Lost Word has reference exclusively
to the design and the objects of the institution.
First, let us define the
symbol, and then investigate its interpretation.
The mythical history of
Freemasonry informs us that there once existed a WORD of surpassing value,
and claiming a profound veneration; that this Word was known to but few;
that it was at length lost; and that a temporary substitute for it was
adopted. But as the very philosophy of Masonry teaches us that there can be
no death without a resurrection,—no decay without a subsequent
restoration,—on the same principle it follows that the loss of the Word must
suppose its eventual recovery.
Now, this it is, precisely,
that constitutes the myth of the Lost Word and the search for it. No matter
what was the word, no matter how it was lost, nor why a substitute was
provided, nor when nor where it was recovered. These are all points of
subsidiary importance, necessary, it is true, for knowing the legendary
history, but not necessary for understanding the symbolism. The only term of
the myth that is to be regarded in the study of its interpretation, is the
abstract idea of a word lost and afterwards recovered.
This, then, points us to the
goal to which we must direct our steps in the pursuit of the investigation.
But the symbolism, referring
in this case, as I have already said, solely to the great design of
Freemasonry, the nature of that design at once suggests itself as a
preliminary subject of inquiry in the investigation.
What, then, is the design of
Freemasonry? A very large majority of its disciples, looking only to its
practical results, as seen in the every-day business of life,—to the noble
charities which it dispenses, to the tears of widows which it has dried, to
the cries of orphans which it has hushed, to the wants of the destitute
which it has supplied,—arrive with too much rapidity at the conclusion that
Charity, and that, too, in its least exalted sense of eleemosynary aid, is
the great design of the institution.
Others, with a still more
contracted view, remembering the pleasant reunions at their lodge banquets,
the unreserved communications which are thus encouraged, and the solemn
obligations of mutual trust and confidence that are continually inculcated,
believe that it was intended solely to promote the social sentiments and
cement the bonds of friendship.
But, although the modern
lectures inform us that Brotherly Love and Relief are two of "the principal
tenets of a Mason's profession," yet, from the same authority, we learn that
Truth is a third and not less important one; and Truth, too, not in its old
Anglo-Saxon meaning of fidelity to engagements,232
but in that more strictly philosophical one in which it is opposed to
intellectual and religious error or falsehood.
But I have shown that the
Primitive Freemasonry of the ancients was instituted for the purpose of
preserving that truth which had been originally communicated to the
patriarchs, in all its integrity, and that the Spurious Masonry, or the
Mysteries, originated in the earnest need of the sages, and philosophers,
and priests, to find again the same truth which had been lost by the
surrounding multitudes. I have shown, also, that this same truth continued
to be the object of the Temple Masonry, which was formed by a union of the
Primitive, or Pure, and the Spurious systems. Lastly, I have endeavored to
demonstrate that this truth related to the nature of God and the human soul.
The search, then, after this
truth, I suppose to constitute the end and design of Speculative Masonry.
From the very commencement of his career, the aspirant is by significant
symbols and expressive instructions directed to the acquisition of this
divine truth; and the whole lesson, if not completed in its full extent, is
at least well developed in the myths and legends of the Master's degree.
God and the soul—the unity of the one and the immortality of the
other—are the great truths, the search for which is to constitute the
constant occupation of every Mason, and which, when found, are to become the
chief corner-stone, or the stone of foundation, of the spiritual temple—"the
house not made with hands"—which he is engaged in erecting.
Now, this idea of a search
after truth forms so prominent a part of the whole science of Freemasonry,
that I conceive no better or more comprehensive answer could be given to the
question, What is Freemasonry? than to say that it is a science which
is engaged in the search after divine truth.
But Freemasonry is eminently
a system of symbolism, and all its instructions are conveyed in symbols. It
is, therefore, to be supposed that so prominent and so prevailing an idea as
this,—one that constitutes, as I have said, the whole design of the
institution, and which may appropriately be adopted as the very definition
of its science,—could not with any consistency be left without its
The WORD, therefore, I
conceive to be the symbol of Divine Truth; and all its
modifications—the loss, the substitution, and the recovery—are but component
parts of the mythical symbol which represents a search after truth.
How, then, is this symbolism
preserved? How is the whole history of this Word to be interpreted, so as to
bear, in all its accidents of time, and place, and circumstance, a patent
reference to the substantive idea that has been symbolized?
The answers to these
questions embrace what is, perhaps, the most intricate as well as most
ingenious and interesting portion of the science of masonic symbolism.
This symbolism may be
interpreted, either in an application to a general or to a special sense.
The general application will
embrace the whole history of Freemasonry, from its inception to its
consummation. The search after the Word is an epitome of the intellectual
and religious progress of the order, from the period when, by the dispersion
at Babel, the multitudes were enshrouded in the profundity of a moral
darkness where truth was apparently forever extinguished. The true name of
God was lost; his true nature was not understood; the divine lessons
imparted by our father Noah were no longer remembered; the ancient
traditions were now corrupted; the ancient symbols were perverted. Truth was
buried beneath the rubbish of Sabaism, and the idolatrous adoration of the
sun and stars had taken the place of the olden worship of the true God. A
moral darkness was now spread over the face of the earth, as a dense,
impenetrable cloud, which obstructed the rays of the spiritual sun, and
covered the people as with a gloomy pall of intellectual night.
But this night was not to
last forever. A brighter dawn was to arise, and amidst all this gloom and
darkness there were still to be found a few sages in whom the religious
sentiment, working in them with powerful throes, sent forth manfully to seek
after truth. There were, even in those days of intellectual and religious
darkness, craftsmen who were willing to search for the Lost Word. And
though they were unable to find it, their approximation to truth was so near
that the result of their search may well be symbolized by the Substitute
It was among the idolatrous
multitudes that the Word had been lost. It was among them that the
Builder had been smitten, and that the works of the spiritual temple had
been suspended; and so, losing at each successive stage of their decline,
more and more of the true knowledge of God and of the pure religion which
had originally been imparted by Noah, they finally arrived at gross
materialism and idolatry, losing all sight of the divine existence. Thus it
was that the truth—the Word—was said to have been lost; or, to apply the
language of Hutchinson, modified in its reference to the time, "in this
situation, it might well be said that the guide to heaven was lost, and the
master of the works of righteousness was smitten. The nations had given
themselves up to the grossest idolatry, and the service of the true God was
effaced from the memory of those who had yielded themselves to the dominion
And now it was among the
philosophers and priests in the ancient Mysteries, or the spurious
Freemasonry, that an anxiety to discover the truth led to the search for the
Lost Word. These were the craftsmen who saw the fatal-blow which had been
given, who knew that the Word was now lost, but were willing to go forth,
manfully and patiently, to seek its restoration. And there were the
craftsmen who, failing to rescue it from the grave of oblivion into which it
had fallen, by any efforts of their own incomplete knowledge, fell back upon
the dim traditions which had been handed down from primeval times, and
through their aid found a substitute for truth in their own philosophical
And hence Schmidtz, speaking
of these Mysteries of the pagan world, calls them the remains of the ancient
Pelasgian religion, and says that "the associations of persons for the
purpose of celebrating them must therefore have been formed at the time when
the overwhelming influence of the Hellenic religion began to gain the upper
hand in Greece, and when persons who still entertained a reverence for the
worship of former times united together, with the intention of preserving
and upholding among themselves as much as possible of the religion of their
Applying, then, our
interpretation in a general sense, the Word itself being the symbol
of Divine Truth, the narrative of its loss and the search for its
recovery becomes a mythical symbol of the decay and loss of the true
religion among the ancient nations, at and after the dispersion on the
plains of Shinar, and of the attempts of the wise men, the philosophers, and
priests, to find and retain it in their secret Mysteries and initiations,
which have hence been designated as the Spurious Freemasonry of Antiquity.
But I have said that there is
a special, or individual, as well as a general interpretation. This compound
or double symbolism, if I may so call it, is by no means unusual in
Freemasonry. I have already exhibited an illustration of it in the symbolism
of Solomon's temple, where, in a general sense, the temple is viewed as a
symbol of that spiritual temple formed by the aggregation of the whole
order, and in which each mason is considered as a stone; and, in an
individual or special sense, the same temple is considered as a type of that
spiritual temple which each mason is directed to erect in his heart.
Now, in this special or
individual interpretation, the Word, with its accompanying myth of a loss, a
substitute, and a recovery, becomes a symbol of the personal progress of a
candidate from his first initiation to the completion of his course, when he
receives a full development of the Mysteries.
The aspirant enters on this
search after truth, as an Entered Apprentice, in darkness, seeking for
light—the light of wisdom, the light of truth, the light symbolized by the
Word. For this important task, upon which he starts forth gropingly,
falteringly, doubtingly, in want and in weakness, he is prepared by a
purification of the heart, and is invested with a first substitute for the
true Word, which, like the pillar that went before the Israelites in the
wilderness, is to guide him onwards in his weary journey. He is directed to
take, as a staff and scrip for his journey, all those virtues which expand
the heart and dignify the soul. Secrecy, obedience, humility, trust in God,
purity of conscience, economy of time, are all inculcated by impressive
types and symbols, which connect the first degree with the period of youth.
And then, next in the degree
of Fellow Craft, he fairly enters upon his journey. Youth has now passed,
and manhood has come on. New duties and increased obligations press upon the
individual. The thinking and working stage of life is here symbolized.
Science is to be cultivated; wisdom is to be acquired; the lost Word—divine
truth—is still to be sought for. But even yet it is not to be found.
And now the Master Mason
comes, with all the symbolism around him of old age—trials, sufferings,
death. And here, too, the aspirant, pressing onward, always onward,
still cries aloud for "light, more light." The search is almost over, but
the lesson, humiliating to human nature, is to be taught, that in this
life—gloomy and dark, earthly and carnal—pure truth has no abiding place;
and contented with a substitute, and to that second temple of eternal
life, for that true Word, that divine Truth, which will teach us all that we
shall ever learn of God and his emanation, the human soul.
So, the Master Mason,
receiving this substitute for the lost Word, waits with patience for the
time when it shall be found, and perfect wisdom shall be attained.
But, work as we will, this
symbolic Word—this knowledge of divine Truth—is never thoroughly attained in
this life, or in its symbol, the Master Mason's lodge. The corruptions of
mortality, which encumber and cloud the human intellect, hide it, as with a
thick veil, from mortal eyes. It is only, as I have just said, beyond the
tomb, and when released from the earthly burden of life, that man is capable
of fully receiving and appreciating the revelation. Hence, then, when we
speak of the recovery of the Word, in that higher degree which is a
supplement to Ancient Craft Masonry, we intimate that that sublime portion
of the masonic system is a symbolic representation of the state after death.
For it is only after the decay and fall of this temple of life, which, as
masons, we have been building, that from its ruins, deep beneath its
foundations, and in the profound abyss of the grave, we find that divine
truth, in the search for which life was spent, if not in vain, at least
without success, and the mystic key to which death only could supply.
And now we know by this
symbolism what is meant by masonic labor, which, too, is itself but
another form of the same symbol. The search for the Word—to find divine
Truth—this, and this only, is a mason's work, and the WORD is his reward.
Labor, said the old monks, is
worship—laborare est orare; and thus in our lodges do we worship,
working for the Word, working for the Truth, ever looking forward, casting
no glance behind, but cheerily hoping for the consummation and the reward of
our labor in the knowledge which is promised to him who plays no laggard's
Goethe, himself a mason and a
poet, knew and felt all this symbolism of a mason's life and work, when he
wrote that beautiful poem, which Carlyle has thus thrown into his own rough
but impulsive language.
"The mason's ways are
A type of existence,—
And to his persistence
Is as the days are
Of men in this world.
"The future hides in it
Gladness and sorrow;
We press still thorow,
Nought that abides in it
"And solemn before us
Veiled the dark portal,
Goal of all mortal;
Stars silent rest o'er us
Graves under us silent.
"While earnest thou gazest
Come boding of terror,
Comes phantasm and error,
Perplexing the bravest
With doubt and misgiving.
"But heard are the voices,
Heard are the sages,
The worlds and the ages;
'Choose well; your choice is
Brief and yet endless.
"'Here eyes do regard you,
In eternity's stillness;
Here is all fullness,
Ye, brave to reward you;
Work and despair not.'"
And now, in concluding this
work, so inadequate to the importance of the subjects that have been
discussed, one deduction, at least, may be drawn from all that has been
In tracing the progress of
Freemasonry, and in detailing its system of symbolism, it has been found to
be so intimately connected with the history of philosophy, of religion, and
of art, in all ages of the world, that the conviction at once forces itself
upon the mind, that no mason can expect thoroughly to comprehend its nature,
or to appreciate its character as a science, unless he shall devote himself,
with some labor and assiduity, to this study of its system. That skill which
consists in repeating, with fluency and precision, the ordinary lectures, in
complying with all the ceremonial requisitions of the ritual, or the giving,
with sufficient accuracy, the appointed modes of recognition, pertains only
to the very rudiments of the masonic science.
But there is a far nobler
series of doctrines with which Freemasonry is connected, and which it has
been my object, in this work, to present in some imperfect way. It is these
which constitute the science and the philosophy of Freemasonry, and it is
these alone which will return the student who devotes himself to the task, a
sevenfold reward for his labor.
Freemasonry, viewed no
longer, as too long it has been, as a merely social institution, has now
assumed its original and undoubted position as a speculative science. While
the mere ritual is still carefully preserved, as the casket should be which
contains so bright a jewel; while its charities are still dispensed as the
necessary though incidental result of all its moral teachings; while its
social tendencies are still cultivated as the tenacious cement which is to
unite so fair a fabric in symmetry and strength, the masonic mind is
everywhere beginning to look and ask for something, which, like the manna in
the desert, shall feed us, in our pilgrimage, with intellectual food. The
universal cry, throughout the masonic world, is for light; our lodges are
henceforth to be schools; our labor is to be study; our wages are to be
learning; the types and symbols, the myths and allegories, of the
institution are beginning to be investigated with reference to their
ultimate meaning; our history is now traced by zealous inquiries as to its
connection with antiquity; and Freemasons now thoroughly understand that
often quoted definition, that "Masonry is a science of morality veiled in
allegory and illustrated by symbols."
Thus to learn Masonry is to
know our work and to do it well. What true mason would shrink from the task?
AB. The Hebrew word בא, AB,
signifies "father," and was among the Hebrews a title of honor. From it, by
the addition of the possessive pronoun, is compounded the word Abif,
signifying "his father," and applied to the Temple Builder.
ABIF. See Hiram Abif.
ABNET. The band or apron,
made of fine linen, variously wrought, and worn by the Jewish priesthood. It
seems to have been borrowed directly from the Egyptians, upon the
representations of all of whose gods is to be found a similar girdle. Like
the zennaar, or sacred cord of the Brahmins, and the white shield of the
Scandinavians, it is the analogue of the masonic apron.
ACACIA, SPRIG OF. No symbol
is more interesting to the masonic student than the sprig of acacia.
It is the mimosa nilotica
of Linnæus, the shittah of the Hebrew writers, and grows abundantly
It is preeminently the symbol
of the immortality of the soul.
It was for this reason
planted by the Jews at the head of a grave.
This symbolism is derived
from its never-fading character as an evergreen.
It is also a symbol of
innocence, and this symbolism is derived from the double meaning of the word
αϗαϗια, which in Greek signifies the plant, and innocence; in this point of
view Hutchinson has Christianized the symbol.
It is, lastly, a symbol of
This symbolism is derived
from the fact that it is the sacred plant of Masonry; and in all the ancient
rites there were sacred plants, which became in each rite the respective
symbol of initiation into its Mysteries; hence the idea was borrowed by
ADONIA. The Mysteries of
Adonis, principally celebrated in Phoenicia and Syria. They lasted for two
days, and were commemorative of the death and restoration of Adonis. The
ceremonies of the first day were funereal in their character, and consisted
in the lamentations of the initiates for the death of Adonis, whose picture
or image was carried in procession. The second day was devoted to mirth and
joy for the return of Adonis to life. In their spirit and their mystical
design, these Mysteries bore a very great resemblance to the third degree of
Masonry, and they are quoted to show the striking analogy between the
ancient and the modern initiations.
ADONIS. In mythology, the son
of Cinyras and Myrrha, who was greatly beloved by Venus, or Aphrodite. He
was slain by a wild boar, and having descended into the realm of Pluto,
Persephone became enamoured of him. This led to a contest for him between
Venus and Persephone, which was finally settled by his restoration to life
upon the condition that he should spend six months upon earth, and six
months in the inferior regions. In the mythology of the philosophers, Adonis
was a symbol of the sun; but his death by violence, and his subsequent
restoration to life, make him the analogue of Hiram Abif in the masonic
system, and identify the spirit of the initiation in his Mysteries, which
was to teach the second life with that of the third degree of Freemasonry.
AHRIMAN, or ARIMANES. In the
religious system of Zoroaster, the principle of evil, or darkness, which was
perpetually opposing Ormuzd, the principle of good, or light. See
ALFADER. The father of all,
or the universal Father. The principal deity of the Scandinavian mythology.
The Edda gives twelve names
of God, of which Alfader is the first and most ancient, and is the one most
ALGABIL. One of the names of
the Supreme Being among the Cabalists. It signifies "the Master Builder,"
and is equivalent to the masonic epithet of "Grand Architect of the
ALLEGORY. A discourse or
narrative, in which there is a literal and a figurative sense, a patent and
a concealed meaning; the literal or patent sense being intended by analogy
or comparison to indicate the figurative or concealed one. Its derivation
from the Greek ἀλλος and ἀγορειν, to say something different, that
is, to say something where the language is one thing, and the true meaning
different, exactly expresses the character of an allegory. It has been said
in the text that there is no essential difference between an allegory and a
symbol. There is not in design, but there is this in their character: An
allegory may be interpreted without any previous conventional agreement, but
a symbol cannot. Thus the legend of the third degree is an allegory
evidently to be interpreted as teaching a restoration to life; and this we
learn from the legend itself, without any previous understanding. The sprig
of acacia is a symbol of the immortality of the soul. But this we know only
because such meaning had been conventionally determined when the symbol was
first established. It is evident, then, that an allegory which is obscure is
imperfect. The enigmatical meaning should be easy of interpretation; and
hence Lemière, a French poet, has said, "L'allégorie habite un palais
diaphane"—Allegory lives in a transparent palace. All the legends of
Freemasonry are more or less allegorical, and whatever truth there may be in
some of them in an historical point of view, it is only as allegories, or
legendary symbols, that they are important.
ALL-SEEING EYE. A symbol of
the third degree, of great antiquity. See Eye.
ANCIENT CRAFT MASONRY. The
first three degrees of Freemasonry; viz., Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft,
and Master Mason. They are so called because they alone are supposed to have
been practised by the ancient craft. In the agreement between the two grand
lodges of England in 1813, the definition was made to include the Royal Arch
degree. Now if by the "ancient craft" are meant the workmen at the first
temple, the definition will be wrong, because the Royal Arch degree could
have had no existence until the time of the building of the second temple.
But if by the "ancient craft" is meant the body of workmen who introduced
the rites of Masonry into Europe in the early ages of the history of the
Order, then it will be correct; because the Royal Arch degree always, from
its origin until the middle of the eighteenth century, formed a part of the
Master's. "Ancient Craft Masonry," however, in this country, is generally
understood to embrace only the first three degrees.
ANDERSON. James Anderson, D.D.,
is celebrated as the compiler and editor of "The Constitutions of the
Freemasons," published by order of the Grand Lodge of England, in 1723. A
second edition was published by him in 1738. Shortly after, Anderson died,
and the subsequent editions, of which there are several, have been edited by
other persons. The edition of 1723 has become exceedingly rare, and copies
of it bring fancy prices among the collectors of old masonic books. Its
intrinsic value is derived only from the fact that it contains the first
printed copy of the "Old Charges," and also the "General Regulations." The
history of Masonry which precedes these, and constitutes the body of the
work, is fanciful, unreliable, and pretentious to a degree that often leads
to absurdity. The craft are greatly indebted to Anderson for his labors in
reorganizing the institution, but doubtless it would have been better if he
had contented himself with giving the records of the Grand Lodge from 1717
to 1738 which are contained in his second edition, and with preserving for
us the charges and regulations, which without his industry might have been
lost. No masonic writer would now venture to quote Anderson as authority for
the history of the Order anterior to the eighteenth century. It must also be
added that in the republication of the old charges in the edition of 1738,
he made several important alterations and interpolations, which justly gave
some offence to the Grand Lodge, and which render the second edition of no
authority in this respect.
ANIMAL WORSHIP. The worship
of animals is a species of idolatry that was especially practised by the
ancient Egyptians. Temples were erected by this people in their honor, in
which they were fed and cared for during life; to kill one of them was a
crime punishable with death; and after death, they were embalmed, and
interred in the catacombs. This worship was derived first from the earlier
adoration of the stars, to certain constellations of which the names of
animals had been given; next, from an Egyptian tradition that the gods,
being pursued by Typhon, had concealed themselves under the forms of
animals; and lastly, from the doctrine of the metempsychosis, according to
which there was a continual circulation of the souls of men and animals. But
behind the open and popular exercise of this degrading worship the priests
concealed a symbolism full of philosophical conceptions. How this symbolism
was corrupted and misinterpreted by the uninitiated people, is shown by
Gliddon, and quoted in the text.
APHANISM (Greek ἀφανίζω,
to conceal). In each of the initiations of the ancient Mysteries, there
was a scenic representation of the death or disappearance of some god or
hero, whose adventures constituted the legend of the Mystery. That part of
the ceremony of initiation which related to and represented the death or
disappearance was called the aphanism.
Freemasonry, which has in its
ceremonial form been framed after the model of these ancient Mysteries, has
also its aphanism in the third degree.
APORRHETA (Greek αποῤῥέτα).
The holy things in the ancient Mysteries which were known only to the
initiates, and were not to be disclosed to the profane, were called the
aporrheta. What are the aporrheta of Freemasonry? what are the arcana of
which there can be no disclosure? is a question that for some years past has
given rise to much discussion among the disciples of the institution. If the
sphere and number of these aporrheta be very considerably extended, it is
evident that much valuable investigation by public discussion of the science
of Masonry will be prohibited. On the other hand, if the aporrheta are
restricted to only a few points, much of the beauty, the permanency, and the
efficacy of Freemasonry, which are dependent on its organization as a secret
and mystical association, will be lost. We move between Scylla and Charybdis,
and it is difficult for a masonic writer to know how to steer so as, in
avoiding too frank an exposition of the principles of the Order, not to fall
by too much reticence into obscurity. The European Masons are far more
liberal in their views of the obligation of secrecy than the English or the
American. There are few things, indeed, which a French or German masonic
writer will refuse to discuss with the utmost frankness. It is now beginning
to be very generally admitted, and English and American writers are acting
on the admission, that the only real aporrheta of Freemasonry are the modes
of recognition, and the peculiar and distinctive ceremonies of the Order;
and to these last it is claimed that reference may be publicly made for the
purposes of scientific investigation, provided that the reference be so made
as to be obscure to the profane, and intelligible only to the initiated.
APRON. The lambskin, or white
leather apron, is the peculiar and distinctive badge of a mason.
Its color must be white, and
its material a lambskin.
It is a symbol of purity, and
it derives this symbolism from its color, white being symbolic of purity;
from its material, the lamb having the same symbolic character; and from its
use, which is to preserve the garments clean.
The apron, or abnet, worn by
the Egyptian and the Hebrew priests, and which has been considered as the
analogue of the masonic apron, is supposed to have been a symbol of
authority; but the use of the apron in Freemasonry originally as an
implement of labor, is an evidence of the derivation of the speculative
science from an operative art.
APULEIUS. Lucius Apuleius, a
Latin writer, born at Medaura, in Africa, flourished in the reigns of the
emperors Antoninus and Marcus Aurelius. His most celebrated book, entitled
"Metamorphoses, or the Golden Ass," was written, Bishop Warburton thinks,
for the express purpose of recommending the ancient Mysteries. He had been
initiated into many of them, and his descriptions of them, and especially of
his own initiation into those of the Egyptian Isis, are highly interesting
and instructive, and should be read by every student of the science of
ARCHETYPE. The principal
type, figure, pattern, or example, whereby and whereon a thing is formed. In
the science of symbolism, the archetype is the thing adopted as a symbol,
whence the symbolic idea is derived. Thus we say the temple is the archetype
of the lodge, because the former is the symbol whence all the temple
symbolism of the latter is derived.
ARCHITECTURE. The art which
teaches the proper method of constructing public and private edifices. It is
to Freemasonry the "ars artium," the art of arts, because to it the
institution is indebted for its origin in its present organization. The
architecture of Freemasonry is altogether related to the construction of
public edifices, and principally sacred or religious ones,—such as temples,
cathedrals, churches,—and of these, masonically, the temple of Solomon is
the archetype. Much of the symbolism of Freemasonry is drawn from the art of
architecture. While the improvements of Greek and Roman architecture are
recognized in Freemasonry, the three ancient orders, the Doric, Ionic, and
Corinthian are alone symbolized. No symbolism attaches to the Tuscan and
ARK OF THE COVENANT. One of
the most sacred objects among the Israelites. It was a chest made of shittim
wood, or acacia, richly decorated, forty-five inches long, and eighteen
inches wide, and contained the two tables of stone on which the ten
commandments were engraved, the golden pot that held manna, and Aaron's rod.
It was placed in the holy of holies, first of the tabernacle, and then of
the temple. Such is its masonic and scriptural history. The idea of this ark
was evidently borrowed from the Egyptians, in whose religious rites a
similar chest or coffer is to be found. Herodotus mentions several
instances. Speaking of the festival of Papremis, he says (ii. 63) that the
image of the god was kept in a small wooden shrine covered with plates of
gold, which shrine was conveyed in a procession of the priests and people
from the temple into a second sacred building. Among the sculptures are to
be found bass reliefs of the ark of Isis. The greatest of the religious
ceremonies of the Egyptians was the procession of the shrines mentioned in
the Rosetta stone, and which is often found depicted on the sculptures.
These shrines were of two kinds, one a canopy, but the other, called the
great shrine, was an ark or sacred boat. It was borne on the shoulders of
priests by means of staves passing through rings in its sides, and was taken
into the temple and deposited on a stand. Some of these arks contained, says
Wilkinson (Notes to Herod. II. 58, n. 9), the elements of life
and stability, and others the sacred beetle of the sun, overshadowed by the
wings of two figures of the goddess Thmei. In all this we see the type of
the Jewish ark. The introduction of the ark into the ceremonies of
Freemasonry evidently is in reference to its loss and recovery; and hence
its symbolism is to be interpreted as connected with the masonic idea of
loss and recovery, which always alludes to a loss of life and a recovery of
immortality. In the first temple of this life the ark is lost; in the second
temple of the future life it is recovered. And thus the ark of the covenant
is one of the many masonic symbols of the resurrection.
ARTS AND SCIENCES, LIBERAL.
In the seventh century, and for many centuries afterwards, all learning was
limited to and comprised in what were called the seven liberal arts and
sciences; namely, grammar, rhetoric, logic, arithmetic, geometry, music, and
astronomy. The epithet "liberal" is a fair translation of the Latin "ingenuus,"
which means "free-born;" thus Cicero speaks of the "artes ingenuæ," or the
arts befitting a free-born man; and Ovid says in the well-known lines,—
Emollit mores nec sinit esse feros,"—
To have studied carefully
the liberal arts refines the manners, and prevents us from being brutish.
And Phillips, in his "New World of Words" (1706), defines the liberal arts
and sciences to be "such as are fit for gentlemen and scholars, as mechanic
trades and handicrafts for meaner people." As Freemasons are required by
their landmarks to be free-born, we see the propriety of
incorporating the arts of free-born men among their symbols. As the system
of Masonry derived its present form and organization from the times when the
study of these arts and sciences constituted the labors of the wisest men,
they have very appropriately been adopted as the symbol of the completion of
ASHLAR. In builders'
language, a stone taken from the quarries.
ASHLAR, PERFECT. A stone that
has been hewed, squared, and polished, so as to be fit for use in the
building. Masonically, it is a symbol of the state of perfection attained by
means of education. And as it is the object of Speculative Masonry to
produce this state of perfection, it may in that point of view be also
considered as a symbol of the social character of the institution of
ASHLAR, ROUGH. A stone in its
rude and natural state. Masonically, it is a symbol of men's natural state
of ignorance. But if the perfect ashlar be, in reference to its mode of
preparation, considered as a symbol of the social character of Freemasonry,
then the rough ashlar must be considered as a symbol of the profane world.
In this species of symbolism, the rough and perfect ashlars bear the same
relation to each other as ignorance does to knowledge, death to life, and
light to darkness. The rough ashlar is the profane, the perfect ashlar is
ASHMOLE, ELIAS. A celebrated
antiquary of England, who was born in 1617. He has written an autobiography,
or rather diary of his life, which extends to within eight years of his
death. Under the date of October 16, 1646, he has made the following entry:
"I was made a Free-Mason at Warrington, in Lancashire, with Col. Henry
Mainwaring, of Carticham, in Cheshire; the names of those that were then at
the lodge: Mr. Richard Penket, warden; Mr. James Collier, Mr. Richard Sankey,
Henry Littler, John Ellam and Hugh Brewer." Thirty-six years afterwards,
under date of March 10, 1682, he makes the following entry: "I received a
summons to appear at a lodge to be held the next day at Masons' Hall, in
London. 11. Accordingly I went, and about noon was admitted into the
fellowship of Freemasons by Sir William Wilson, Knight, Captain Richard
Borthwick, Mr. William Woodman, Mr. William Grey, Mr. Samuel Taylour, and
Mr. William Wise. I was the senior fellow among them (it being thirty-five
years since I was admitted); there was present beside myself the fellows
after named: Mr. Thomas Wise, master of the Masons' Company this year; Mr.
Thomas Shorthose, Mr. Thomas Shadbolt, ---- Waidsfford, Esq., Mr. Nicholas
Young, Mr. John Shorthose, Mr. William Hamon, Mr. John Thompson, and Mr.
William Stanton. We all dined at the Half-Moon Tavern, in Cheapside, at a
noble dinner prepared at the charge of the new-accepted Masons." The titles
of some of the persons named in these two receptions confirm what is said in
the text, that the operative was at that time being superseded by the
speculative element. It is deeply to be regretted that Ashmole did not carry
out his projected design of writing a history of Freemasonry, for which it
is said that he had collected abundant materials. His History of the Order
of the Garter shows what we might have expected from his treatment of the
ASPIRANT. One who aspires to
or seeks after the truth. The title given to the candidate in the ancient
ATHELSTAN. King of England,
who ascended the throne in 924. Anderson cites the old constitutions as
saying that he encouraged the Masons, and brought many over from France and
elsewhere. In his reign, and in the year 926, the celebrated General
Assembly of the Craft was held in the city of York, with prince Edward, the
king's brother, for Grand Master, when new constitutions were framed. From
this assembly the York Rite dates its origin.
AUTOPSY (Greek αὐτοψία, a
seeing with one's own eyes). The complete communication of the secrets
in the ancient Mysteries, when the aspirant was admitted into the sacellum,
or most sacred place, and was invested by the Hierophant with all the
aporrheta, or sacred things, which constituted the perfect knowledge of the
initiate. A similar ceremony in Freemasonry is called the Rite of
AUM. The triliteral name of
God in the Brahminical mysteries, and equivalent among the Hindoos to the
tetragrammaton of the Jews. In one of the Puranas, or sacred books of the
Hindoos, it is said, "All the rites ordained in the Vedas, the sacrifices to
fire, and all other solemn purifications, shall pass away; but that which
shall never pass away is the word AUM, for it is the symbol of the Lord of
BABEL. The biblical account
of the dispersion of mankind in consequence of the confusion of tongues at
Babel, has been incorporated into the history of Masonry. The text has shown
the probability that the pure and abstract principles of the Primitive
Freemasonry had been preserved by Noah and his immediate descendants; and
also that, as a consequence of the dispersion, these principles had been
lost or greatly corrupted by the Gentiles, who were removed from the
influence and teachings of the great patriarch.
Now there was in the old
rituals a formula in the third degree, preserved in some places to the
present day, which teaches that the candidate has come from the tower of
Babel, where language was confounded and Masonry lost, and that he is
travelling to the threshing-floor of Ornan the Jebusite, where language
was restored and Masonry found. An attentive perusal of the nineteen
propositions set forth in the preliminary chapter of this work will furnish
the reader with a key for the interpretation of this formula. The principles
of the Primitive Freemasonry of the early priesthood were corrupted or lost
at Babel by the defection of a portion of mankind from Noah, the conservator
of those principles. Long after, the descendants of this people united with
those of Noah at the temple of Solomon, whose site was the threshing-floor
of Ornan the Jebusite, from whom it had been bought by David; and here the
lost principles were restored by this union of the Spurious Freemasons of
Tyre with the Primitive Freemasons of Jerusalem. And this explains the
latter clause of the formula.
BABYLONISH CAPTIVITY. When
the city and temple of Jerusalem were destroyed by the army of
Nebuchadnezzar, and the inhabitants conveyed as captives to Babylon, we have
a right to suppose,—that is to say, if there be any truth in masonic
history, the deduction is legitimate,—that among these captives were many of
the descendants of the workmen at the temple. If so, then they carried with
them into captivity the principles of Masonry which they had acquired at
home, and the city of Babylon became the great seat of Speculative Masonry
for many years. It was during the captivity that the philosopher Pythagoras,
who was travelling as a seeker after knowledge, visited Babylon. With his
ardent thirst for wisdom, he would naturally hold frequent interviews with
the leading Masons among the Jewish captives. As he suffered himself to be
initiated into the Mysteries of Egypt during his visit to that country, it
is not unlikely that he may have sought a similar initiation into the
masonic Mysteries. This would account for the many analogies and
resemblances to Masonry that we find in the moral teachings, the symbols,
and the peculiar organization of the school of Pythagoras—resemblances so
extraordinary as to have justified, or at least excused, the rituals for
calling the sage of Samos "our ancient brother."
BACCHUS. One of the
appellations of the "many-named" god Dionysus. The son of Jupiter and Semele
was to the Greeks Dionysus, to the Romans Bacchus.
BARE FEET. A symbol of
reverence when both feet are uncovered. Otherwise the symbolism is modern;
and from the ritualistic explanation which is given in the first degree, it
would seem to require that the single bare foot should be interpreted as the
symbol of a covenant.
BLACK. Pythagoras called this
color the symbol of the evil principle in nature. It was equivalent to
darkness, which is the antagonist of light. But in masonic symbolism the
interpretation is different. There, black is a symbol of grief, and always
refers to the fate of the temple-builder.
BRAHMA. In the mythology of
the Hindoos there is a trimurti, or trinity, the Supreme Being exhibiting
himself in three manifestations; as, Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the
Preserver, and Siva the Destroyer,—the united godhead being a symbol of the
Brahma was a symbol of the
rising sun, Siva of the sun at meridian, and Vishnu of the setting sun.
BRUCE. The introduction of
Freemasonry into Scotland has been attributed by some writers to King Robert
Bruce, who is said to have established in 1314 the Order of Herodom, for the
reception of those Knights Templars who had taken refuge in his dominions
from the persecutions of the Pope and the King of France. Lawrie, who is
excellent authority for Scottish Masonry, does not appear, however, to give
any credit to the narrative. Whatever Bruce may have done for the higher
degrees, there is no doubt that Ancient Craft Masonry was introduced into
Scotland at an earlier period. See Kilwinning. Yet the text is right
in making Bruce one of the patrons and encouragers of Scottish Freemasonry.
BRYANT. Jacob Bryant,
frequently quoted in this work, was a distinguished English antiquary, born
in the year 1715, and deceased in 1804. His most celebrated work is "A New
System of Ancient Mythology," which appeared in 1773-76. Although
objectionable on account of its too conjectural character, it contains a
fund of details on the subject of symbolism, and may be consulted with
advantage by the masonic student.
BUILDER. The chief architect
of the temple of Solomon is often called "the Builder." But the word is also
applied generally to the craft; for every Speculative Mason is as much a
builder as was his operative predecessor. An American writer (F.S. Wood, of
Arkansas) thus alludes to this symbolic idea. "Masons are called moral
builders. In their rituals, they declare that a more noble and glorious
purpose than squaring stones and hewing timbers is theirs, fitting immortal
nature for that spiritual building not made with hands, eternal in the
heavens." And he adds, "The builder builds for a century; masons for
eternity." In this sense, "the builder" is the noblest title that can be
bestowed upon a mason.
BUNYAN, JOHN. Familiar to
every one as the author of the "Pilgrim's Progress." He lived in the
seventeenth century, and was the most celebrated allegorical writer of
England. His work entitled "Solomon's Temple Spiritualized" will supply the
student of masonic symbolism with many valuable suggestions.
CABALA. The mystical
philosophy of the Jews. The word which is derived from a Hebrew root,
signifying to receive, has sometimes been used in an enlarged sense,
as comprehending all the explanations, maxims, and ceremonies which have
been traditionally handed down to the Jews; but in that more limited
acceptation, in which it is intimately connected with the symbolic science
of Freemasonry, the cabala may be defined to be a system of philosophy which
embraces certain mystical interpretations of Scripture, and metaphysical
speculations concerning the Deity, man, and spiritual beings. In these
interpretations and speculations, according to the Jewish doctors, were
enveloped the most profound truths of religion, which, to be comprehended by
finite beings, are obliged to be revealed through the medium of symbols and
allegories. Buxtorf (Lex. Talm.) defines the Cabala to be a secret science,
which treats in a mystical and enigmatical manner of things divine,
angelical, theological, celestial, and metaphysical, the subjects being
enveloped in striking symbols and secret modes of teaching.
CABALIST. A Jewish
philosopher. One who understands and teaches the doctrines of the Cabala, or
the Jewish philosophy.
CABIRI. Certain gods, whose
worship was first established in the Island of Samothrace, where the Cabiric
Mysteries were practised until the beginning of the Christian era. They were
four in number, and by some are supposed to have referred to Noah and his
three sons. In the Mysteries there was a legend of the death and restoration
to life of Atys, the son of Cybele. The candidate represented Cadmillus, the
youngest of the Cabiri, who was slain by his three brethren. The legend of
the Cabiric Mysteries, as far as it can be understood from the faint
allusions of ancient authors, was in spirit and design very analogous to
that of the third degree of Masonry.
CADMILLUS. One of the gods of
the Cabiri, who was slain by his brothers, on which circumstance the legend
of the Cabiric or Samothracian Mysteries is founded. He is the analogue of
the Builder in the Hiramic legend of Freemasonry. 256
CAIRNS. Heaps of stones of a
conical form, erected by the Druids. Some suppose them to have been
sepulchral monuments, others altars. They were undoubtedly of a religious
character, since sacrificial fires were lighted upon them, and processions
were made around them. These processions were analogous to the
circumambulations in Masonry, and were conducted like them with reference to
the apparent course of the sun.
CASSIA. A gross corruption of
Acacia. The cassia is an aromatic plant, but it has no mystical or
CELTIC MYSTERIES. The
religious rites of ancient Gaul and Britain, more familiarly known as
Druidism, which see.. 109
CEREMONIES. The outer
garments which cover and adorn Freemasonry as clothing does the human body.
Although ceremonies give
neither life nor truth to doctrines or principles, yet they have an
admirable influence, since by their use certain things are made to acquire a
sacred character which they would not otherwise have had; and hence Lord
Coke has most wisely said that "prudent antiquity did, for more solemnity
and better memory and observation of that which is to be done, express
substances under ceremonies.".
CERES. Among the Romans the
goddess of agriculture; but among the more poetic Greeks she became, as
Demeter, the symbol of the prolific earth. See Demeter.
CHARTER OF COLOGNE. A masonic
document of great celebrity, but not of unquestioned authenticity. It is a
declaration or affirmation of the design and principles of Freemasonry,
issued in the year 1535, by a convention of masons who had assembled in the
city of Cologne. The original is in the Latin language. The assertors of the
authenticity of the document claim that it was found in the chest of a lodge
at Amsterdam in 1637, and afterwards regularly transmitted from hand to hand
until the year 1816, when it was presented to Prince Frederick of Nassau,
through whom it was at that time made known to the masonic world. Others
assert that it is a forgery, which was perpetrated about the year 1816. Like
the Leland manuscript, it is one of those vexed questions of masonic
literary history over which so much doubt has been thrown, that it will
probably never be satisfactorily solved. For a translation of the charter,
and copious explanatory notes, by the author of this work, the reader is
referred to the "American Quarterly Review of Freemasonry," vol. ii. p. 52.
FREEMASONRY. The interpretation of its symbols from a Christian point of
view. This is an error into which Hutchinson and Oliver in England, and
Scott and one or two others of less celebrity in this country, have fallen.
It is impossible to derive Freemasonry from Christianity, because the
former, in point of time, preceded the latter. In fact, the symbols of
Freemasonry are Solomonic, and its religion was derived from the ancient
The infusion of the Christian
element was, however, a natural result of surrounding circumstances; yet to
sustain it would be fatal to the cosmopolitan character of the institution.
Such interpretation is
therefore modern, and does not belong to the ancient system.
CIRCULAR TEMPLES. These were
used in the initiations of the religion of Zoroaster. Like the square
temples of Masonry, and the other Mysteries, they were symbolic of the
world, and the symbol was completed by making the circumference of the
circle a representation of the zodiac.
ceremony of perambulating the lodge, or going in procession around the
altar, which was universally practised in the ancient initiations and other
religious ceremonies, and was always performed so that the persons moving
should have the altar on their right hand. The rite was symbolic of the
apparent daily course of the sun from the east to the west by the way of the
south, and was undoubtedly derived from the ancient sun-worship.
CIVILIZATION. Freemasonry is
a result of civilization, for it exists in no savage or barbarous state of
society; and in return it has proved, by its social and moral principles, a
means of extending and elevating the civilization which gave it birth.
Freemasonry is therefore a
type of civilization, bearing the same relation to the profane world that
civilization does to the savage state.
COLLEGES OF ARTIFICERS. The
Collegia Fabrorum, or Workmen's Colleges, were established in Rome by
Numa, who for this purpose distributed all the artisans of the city into
companies, or colleges, according to their arts and trades. They resembled
the modern corporations, or guilds, which sprang up in the middle
ages. The rule established by their founder, that not less than three could
constitute a college,—"tres faciunt collegium,"—has been retained in
the regulations of the third degree of masonry, to a lodge of which these
colleges bore other analogies.
COLOGNE, CHARTER OF. See
Charter of Cologne.
COMMON GAVEL. See Gavel.
appropriating or dedicating, with certain ceremonies, anything to sacred
purposes or offices, by separating it from common use. Masonic lodges, like
ancient temples and modern churches, have always been consecrated. Hobbes,
in his Leviathan (p. iv. c. 44), gives the best definition of this
ceremony. "To consecrate is in Scripture to offer, give, or dedicate, in
pious and decent language and gesture, a man, or any other thing, to God, by
separating it from common use.".
CONSECRATION, ELEMENTS OF.
Those things, the use of which in the ceremony as constituent and elementary
parts of it, are necessary to the perfecting and legalizing of the act of
consecration. In Freemasonry, these elements of consecration are corn,
wine, and oil,—which see.
CORN. One of the three
elements of masonic consecration, and as a symbol of plenty it is intended,
under the name of the "corn of nourishment," to remind us of those temporal
blessings of life, support, and nourishment which we receive from the Giver
of all good.
CORNER STONE. The most
important stone in the edifice, and in its symbolism referring to an
impressive ceremony in the first degree of Masonry.
The ancients laid it with
peculiar ceremonies, and among the Oriental nations it was the symbol of a
prince, or chief.
It is one of the most
impressive symbols of Masonry.
It is a symbol of the
candidate on his initiation.
As a symbol it is exclusively
masonic, and confined to a temple origin.
COVERING OF THE LODGE. Under
the technical name of the "clouded canopy or starry-decked heavens," it is a
symbol of the future world,—of the celestial lodge above, where the
G.A.O.T.U. forever presides, and which constitutes the "foreign country"
which every mason hopes to reach.
CREUZER. George Frederick
Creuzer, who was born in Germany in 1771, and was a professor at the
University of Heidelberg, devoted himself to the study of the ancient
religions, and with profound learning, established a peculiar system on the
subject. Many of his views have been adopted in the text of the present
work. His theory was, that the religion and mythology of the ancient Greeks
were borrowed from a far more ancient people,—a body of priests coming from
the East,—who received them as a revelation. The myths and traditions of
this ancient people were adopted by Hesiod, Homer, and the later poets,
although not without some misunderstanding of them, and they were finally
preserved in the Mysteries, and became subjects of investigation for the
philosophers. This theory Creuzer has developed in his most important work,
entitled "Symbolik und Mythologie der alten Völker, besonders der Greichen,"
which was published at Leipsic in 1819. There is no translation of this work
into English, but Guigniaut published at Paris, in 1824, a paraphrastic
translation of it, under the title of "Religions de l'Antiquité considérées
principalement dans leur Formes Symboliques et Mythologiques." Creuzer's
views throw much light on the symbolic history of Freemasonry.
CROSS. No symbol was so
universally diffused at an early period as the cross. It was, says Faber (Cabir.
ii. 390), a symbol throughout the pagan world long previous to its becoming
an object of veneration to Christians. In ancient symbology it was a symbol
of eternal life. M. de Mortillet, who in 1866 published a work entitled "Le
Signe de la Croix avant le Christianisme," found in the very earliest epochs
three principal symbols of universal occurrences; viz., the circle,
the pyramid, and the cross. Leslie (Man's Origin and Destiny,
p. 312), quoting from him in reference to the ancient worship of the cross,
says "It seems to have been a worship of such a peculiar nature as to
exclude the worship of idols." This sacredness of the crucial symbol may be
one reason why its form was often adopted, especially by the Celts in the
construction of their temples, though I have admitted in the text the
commonly received opinion that in cross-shaped temples the four limbs of the
cross referred to the four elements. But in a very interesting work lately
published—"The Myths of the New World" (N.Y., 1863)—Mr. Brinton assigns
another symbolism. "The symbol," says this writer, "that beyond all others
has fascinated the human mind, THE CROSS, finds here its source and meaning.
Scholars have pointed out its sacredness in many natural religions, and have
reverently accepted it as a mystery, or offered scores of conflicting, and
often debasing, interpretations. It is but another symbol of the four
cardinal points, the four winds of heaven. This will luminously appear
by a study of its use and meaning in America." (p. 95.) And Mr. Brinton
gives many instances of the religious use of the cross by several of the
aboriginal tribes of this continent, where the allusion, it must be
confessed, seems evidently to be to the four cardinal points, or the four
winds, or four spirits, of the earth. If this be so, and if it is probable
that a similar reference was adopted by the Celtic and other ancient
peoples, then we would have in the cruciform temple as much a symbolism of
the world, of which the four cardinal points constitute the boundaries, as
we have in the square, the cubical, and the circular.
CTEIS. A representation of
the female generative organ. It was, as a symbol, always accompanied by the
phallus, and, like that symbol, was extensively venerated by the nations of
antiquity. It was a symbol of the prolific powers of nature. See Phallus.
CUBE. A geometrical figure,
consisting of six equal sides and six equal angles. It is the square
solidified, and was among the ancients a symbol of truth. The same symbolism
is recognized in Freemasonry.
DARKNESS. It denotes
falsehood and ignorance, and was a very universal symbol among the nations
In all the ancient
initiations, the aspirant was placed in darkness for a period differing in
each,—among the Druids for three days, among the Greeks for twenty-seven,
and in the Mysteries of Mithras for fifty.
In all of these, as well as
in Freemasonry, darkness is the symbol of initiation not complete.
DEATH. Because it was
believed to be the entrance to a better and eternal life, which was the
dogma of the Mysteries, death became the symbol of initiation; and hence
among the Greeks the same word signified to die, and to be
initiated. In the British Mysteries, says Davies (Mythol. of the British
Druids), the novitiate passed the river of death in the boat of Garanhir,
the Charon of the Greeks; and before he could be admitted to this privilege,
it was requisite that he should have been mystically buried, as well as
DEFINITION OF FREEMASONRY.
The definition quoted in the text, that it is a science of morality, veiled
in allegory and illustrated by symbols, is the one which is given in the
But a more comprehensive and
exact definition is, that it is a science which is engaged in the search
after divine truth.
DELTA. In the higher degrees
of Masonry, the triangle is so called because the Greek letter of that name
is of a triangular form.
It is a symbol of Deity,
because it is the first perfect figure in geometry; it is the first figure
in which space is enclosed by lines.
DEMETER. Worshipped by the
Greeks as the symbol of the prolific earth. She was the Ceres of the Romans.
To her is attributed the institution of the Eleusinian Mysteries in Greece,
the most popular of all the ancient initiations.
DESIGN OF FREEMASONRY. It is
not charity or alms-giving.
Nor the cultivation of the
social sentiment; for both of these are merely incidental to its
But it is the search after
truth, and that truth is the unity of God, and the immortality of the soul.
DIESEAL. A term used by the
Druids to designate the circumambulation around the sacred cairns, and is
derived from two words signifying "on the right of the sun," because the
circumambulation was always in imitation of the course of the sun, with the
right hand next to the cairn or altar.
DIONYSIAC ARTIFICERS. An
association of architects who possessed the exclusive privilege of erecting
temples and other public buildings in Asia Minor. The members were
distinguished from the uninitiated inhabitants by the possession of peculiar
marks of recognition, and by the secret character of their association. They
were intimately connected with the Dionysiac Mysteries, and are supposed to
have furnished the builders for the construction of the temple of Solomon.
DIONYSIAC MYSTERIES. In
addition to what is said in the text, I add the following, slightly
condensed, from the pen of that accomplished writer, Albert Pike: "The
initiates in these Mysteries had preserved the ritual and ceremonies that
accorded with the simplicity of the earliest ages, and the manners of the
first men. The rules of Pythagoras were followed there. Like the Egyptians,
who held wool unclean, they buried no initiate in woollen garments. They
abstained from bloody sacrifices, and lived on fruits or vegetables. They
imitated the life of the contemplative sects of the Orient. One of the most
precious advantages promised by their initiation was to put man in communion
with the gods by purifying his soul of all the passions that interfere with
that enjoyment, and dim the rays of divine light that are communicated to
every soul capable of receiving them. The sacred gates of the temple, where
the ceremonies of initiation were performed, were opened but once in each
year, and no stranger was allowed to enter. Night threw her veil over these
august Mysteries. There the sufferings of Dionysus were represented, who,
like Osiris, died, descended to hell, and rose to life again; and raw flesh
was distributed to the initiates, which each ate in memory of the death of
the deity torn in pieces by the Titans."
DIONYSUS. Or Bacchus;
mythologically said to be the son of Zeus and Semele. In his Mysteries he
was identified with Osiris, and regarded as the sun. His Mysteries prevailed
in Greece, Rome, and Asia, and were celebrated by the Dionysiac
artificers—those builders who united with the Jews in the construction of
King Solomon's temple. Hence, of all the ancient Mysteries, they are the
most interesting to the masonic student.
disseverance of the operative from the speculative element of Freemasonry
occurred at the beginning of the eighteenth century.
DISCALCEATION, RITE OF. The
ceremony of uncovering the feet, or taking off the shoes; from the Latin
discalceare. It is a symbol of reverence. See Bare Feet.
DRUIDICAL MYSTERIES. The
Celtic Mysteries celebrated in Britain and Gaul. They resembled, in all
material points, the other mysteries of antiquity, and had the same design.
The aspirant was subjected to severe trials, underwent a mystical death and
burial in imitation of the death of the god Hu, and was eventually
enlightened by the communication to him of the great truths of God and
immortality, which it was the object of all the Mysteries to teach.
DUALISM. A mythological and
philosophical doctrine, which supposes the world to have been always
governed by two antagonistic principles, distinguished as the good and the
evil principle. This doctrine pervaded all the Oriental religions, and its
influences are to be seen in the system of Speculative Masonry, where it is
developed in the symbolism of Light and Darkness.
EAST. That part of the
heavens where the sun rises; and as the source of material light to which we
figuratively apply the idea of intellectual light, it has been adopted as a
symbol of the Order of Freemasonry. And this symbolism is strengthened by
the fact that the earliest learning and the earliest religion came from the
east, and have ever been travelling to the west.
In Freemasonry, the east has
always been considered the most sacred of the cardinal points, because it is
the place where light issues; and it was originally referred to the
primitive religion, or sun-worship. But in Freemasonry it refers especially
to that east whence an ancient priesthood first disseminated truth to
enlighten the world; wherefore the east is masonically called "the place of
EGG. The mundane egg is a
well-recognized symbol of the world. "The ancient pagans," says Faber, "in
almost every part of the globe, were wont to symbolize the world by an egg.
Hence this symbol is introduced into the cosmogony of nearly all nations;
and there are few persons, even among those who have not made mythology
their study, to whom the Mundane Egg is not perfectly familiar. It
was employed not only to represent the earth, but also the universe in its
largest extent." Origin of Pag. Idolatry, i. 175.
EGG AND LUNETTE. The egg,
being a symbol not only of the resurrection, but also of the world rescued
from destruction by the Noachic ark, and the lunette, or horizontal
crescent, being a symbol of the Great Father, represented by Noah, the egg
and lunette combined, which was the hieroglyphic of the god Lunus, at
Heliopolis, was a symbol of the world proceeding from the Great Father.
EGYPT. Egypt has been
considered as the cradle not only of the sciences, but of the religions of
the ancient world. Although a monarchy, with a king nominally at the head of
the state, the government really was in the hands of the priests, who were
the sole depositaries of learning, and were alone acquainted with the
religious formularies that in Egypt controlled all the public and private
actions of the life of every inhabitant.
ELEPHANTA. An island in the
Bay of Bombay, celebrated for the stupendous caverns artificially excavated
out of the solid rock, which were appropriated to the initiations in the
ancient Indian Mysteries.
ELEUSINIAN MYSTERIES. Of all
the Mysteries of the ancients these were the most popular. They were
celebrated at the village of Eleusis, near Athens, and were dedicated to
Demeter. In them the loss and the restoration of Persephone were scenically
represented, and the doctrines of the unity of God and the immortality of
the soul were taught. See Demeter.
ENTERED APPRENTICE. The first
degree of Ancient Craft Masonry, analogous to the aspirant in the Lesser
It is viewed as a symbol of
childhood, and is considered as a preparation and purification for something
EPOPT. (From the Greek
ἐπόπτης, an eye witness.) One who, having been initiated in the
Greater Mysteries of paganism, has seen the aporrheta.
ERA OF MASONRY. The legendary
statement that the origin of Masonry is coeval with the beginning of the
world, is only a philosophical myth to indicate the eternal nature of its
ERICA. The tree heath; a
sacred plant among the Egyptians, and used in the Osirian Mysteries as the
symbol of immortality, and the analogue of the masonic acacia.
ESSENES. A society or sect of
the Jews, who combined labor with religious exercises, whose organization
partook of a secret character, and who have been claimed to be the
descendants of the builders of the temple of Solomon.
EUCLID. The masonic legend
which refers to Euclid is altogether historically untrue. It is really a
philosophical myth intended to convey a masonic truth.
EURESIS. (From the Greek
εὔρεσις, a discovery.) That part of the initiation in the ancient
Mysteries which represented the finding of the body of the god or hero whose
death was the subject of the initiation.
The euresis has been adopted
in Freemasonry, and forms an essential part of the ritual of the third
EVERGREEN. A symbol of the
immortality of the soul.
Planted by the Hebrews and
other ancient peoples at the heads of graves.
For this purpose the Hebrews
preferred the acacia, because its wood was incorruptible, and because, as
the material of the ark, it was already considered as a sacred plant.
EYE, ALL-SEEING. A symbol of
the omniscient and watchful providence of God. It is a very ancient symbol,
and is supposed by some to be a relic of the primitive sun-worship. Volney
says (Les Ruines, p. 186) that in most of the ancient languages of
Asia, the eye and the sun are expressed by the same word.
Among the Egyptians the eye was the symbol of their supreme god, Osiris, or
FABER. The works of the Rev.
G.S. Faber, on the Origin of Pagan Idolatry, and on the Cabiri, are valuable
contributions to the science of mythology. They abound in matters of
interest to the investigator of masonic symbolism and philosophy, but should
be read with a careful view of the preconceived theory of the learned
author, who refers everything in the ancient religions to the influences of
the Noachic cataclysm, and the arkite worship which he supposes to have
resulted from it.
FELLOW CRAFT. The second
degree of Ancient Craft Masonry, analogous to the mystes in the ancient
The symbol of a youth setting
forth on the journey of life.
FETICHISM. The worship of
uncouth and misshapen idols, practised only by the most ignorant and debased
peoples, and to be found at this day among some of the least civilized of
the negro tribes of Africa. "Their fetiches," says Du Chaillu, speaking of
some of the African races, "consisted of fingers and tails of monkeys; of
human hair, skin, teeth, bones; of clay, old nails, copper chains; shells,
feathers, claws, and skulls of birds; pieces of iron, copper, or wood; seeds
of plants, ashes of various substances, and I cannot tell what more."
Equatorial Africa, p. 93.
FIFTEEN. A sacred number,
symbolic of the name of God, because the letters of the holy name יה, JAH,
are equal, in the Hebrew mode of numeration by the letters of the alphabet,
to fifteen; for י is equal to ten, and ה is equal to five. Hence, from
veneration for this sacred name, the Hebrews do not, in ordinary
computations, when they wish to express the number 15, make use of these two
letters, but of two others, which are equivalent to 9 and 6.
FORTY-SEVENTH PROBLEM. The
forty-seventh problem of the first book of Euclid is, that in any
right-angled triangle the square which is described upon the side subtending
the right angle is equal to the squares described upon the sides which
contain the right angle. It is said to have been discovered by Pythagoras
while in Egypt, but was most probably taught to him by the priests of that
country, in whose rites he had been initiated; it is a symbol of the
production of the world by the generative and prolific powers of the
Creator; hence the Egyptians made the perpendicular and base the
representatives of Osiris and Isis, while the hypothenuse represented their
child Horus. Dr. Lardner says (Com. on Euclid, p. 60) of this
problem, "Whether we consider the forty-seventh proposition with reference
to the peculiar and beautiful relation established by it, or to its
innumerable uses in every department of mathematical science, or to its
fertility in the consequences derivable from it, it must certainly be
esteemed the most celebrated and important in the whole of the elements, if
not in the whole range of mathematical science."
FOURTEEN. Some symbologists
have referred the fourteen pieces into which the mutilated body of Osiris
was divided, and the fourteen days during which the body of the builder was
buried, to the fourteen days of the disappearance of the moon. The Sabian
worshippers of "the hosts of heaven" were impressed with the alternate
appearance and disappearance of the moon, which at length became a symbol of
death and resurrection. Hence fourteen was a sacred number. As such it was
viewed in the Osirian Mysteries, and may have been introduced into
Freemasonry with other relics of the old worship of the sun and planets.
FREEMASONRY, DEFINITION OF.
FREEMASONS, TRAVELLING. The
travelling Freemasons were a society existing in the middle ages, and
consisting of learned men and prelates, under whom were operative masons.
The operative masons performed the labors of the craft, and travelling from
country to country, were engaged in the construction of cathedrals,
monasteries, and castles. "There are few points in the history of the middle
ages," says Godwin, "more pleasing to look back upon than the existence of
the associated masons; they are the bright spot in the general darkness of
that period; the patch of verdure when all around is barren." The Builder,
G. The use of the letter G in
the Fellow Craft's degree is an anachronism. It is really a corruption of,
or perhaps rather a substitution for, the Hebrew letter י (yod), which is
the initial of the ineffable name. As such, it is a symbol of the
life-giving and life-sustaining power of God.
G.A.O.T.U. A masonic
abbreviation used as a symbol of the name of God, and signifying the
Grand Architect of the Universe. It was adopted by the Freemasons in
accordance with a similar practice among all the nations of antiquity of
noting the Divine Name by a symbol.
GAVEL. What is called in
Masonry a common gavel is a stone-cutter's hammer; it is one of the working
tools of an Entered Apprentice, and is a symbol of the purification of the
GLOVES. On the continent of
Europe they are given to candidates at the same time that they are invested
with the apron; the same custom formerly prevailed in England; but although
the investiture of the gloves is abandoned as a ceremony both there and in
America, they are worn as a part of masonic clothing.
They are a symbol of
purification of life.
In the middle ages gloves
were worn by operative masons.
GOD, UNITY OF. See Unity
GOD, NAME OF. See Name.
GOLGOTHA. In Hebrew and
Syriac it means a skull; a name of Mount Calvary, and so called,
probably, because it was the place of public execution. The Latin
Calvaria, whence Mount Calvary, means also a skull.
GRAVE. In the Master's
degree, a symbol which is the analogue of the pastos, or couch, in the
The symbolism has been
Christianized by some masonic writers, and the grave has thus been referred
to the sepulchre of Christ.
GRIPS AND SIGNS. They are
valuable only for social purposes as modes of recognition.
HAND. The hand is a symbol of
human actions; pure hands symbolize pure actions, and impure or unclean
hands symbolize impure actions.
HARE. Among the Egyptians the
hare was a hieroglyphic of eyes that are open, and was the symbol of
initiation into the Mysteries of Osiris. The Hebrew word for hare is
arnabet, and this is compounded of two words that signify to
behold the light. The connection of ideas is apparent.
HELLENISM. The religion of
the Helles, or ancient Greeks who immediately succeeded the Pelasgians in
the settlement of that country. It was, in consequence of the introduction
of the poetic element, more refined than the old Pelasgic worship for which
it was substituted. Its myths were more philosophical and less gross than
those of the religion to which it succeeded.
HERMAE. Stones of a cubical
form, which were originally unhewn, by which the Greeks at first represented
all their deities. They came in the progress of time to be especially
dedicated by the Greeks to the god Hermes, whence the name, and by the
Romans to the god Terminus, who presided over landmarks.
HERO WORSHIP. The worship of
men deified after death. It is a theory of some, both ancient and modern
writers, that all the pagan gods were once human beings, and that the
legends and traditions of mythology are mere embellishments of the acts of
these personages when alive. It was the doctrine taught by Euhemerus among
the ancients, and has been maintained among the moderns by such
distinguished authorities as Bochart, Bryant, Voss, and Banier.
HERMETIC PHILOSOPHY. The
system of the Alchemists, the Adepts, or seekers of the philosopher's stone.
No system has been more misunderstood than this. It was secret, esoteric,
and highly symbolical. No one has so well revealed its true design as E.A.
Hitchcock, who, in his delightful work entitled "Remarks upon Alchemy and
the Alchemists," says, "The genuine Alchemists were religious men, who
passed their time in legitimate pursuits, earning an honest subsistence, and
in religious contemplation, studying how to realize in themselves the union
of the divine and human nature, expressed in man by an enlightened
submission to God's will; and they thought out and published, after a manner
of their own, a method of attaining or entering upon this state, as the only
rest of the soul." There is a very great similarity between their doctrines
and those of the Freemasons; so much so that the two associations have
sometimes been confounded.
HIEROPHANT. (From the Greek
ἱερὸς, holy, sacred, and φαίνω to show.) One who instructs in
sacred things; the explainer of the aporrheta, or secret doctrines, to the
initiates in the ancient Mysteries. He was the presiding officer, and his
rank and duties were analogous to those of the master of a masonic lodge.
HIRAM ABIF. The architect of
Solomon's temple. The word "Abif" signifies in Hebrew "his father," and is
used by the writer of Second Chronicles (iv. 16) when he says, "These things
did Hiram his father [in the original Hiram Abif ] do for King
The legend relating to him is
of no value as a mere narrative, but of vast importance in a symbolical
point of view, as illustrating a great philosophical and religious truth;
namely, the dogma of the immortality of the soul.
Hence, Hiram Abif is the
symbol of man in the abstract sense, or human nature, as developed in the
life here and in the life to come.
HIRAM OF TYRE. The king of
Tyre, the friend and ally of King Solomon, whom he supplied with men and
materials for building the temple. In the recent, or what I am inclined to
call the grand lecturer's symbolism of Masonry (a sort of symbolism for
which I have very little veneration), Hiram of Tyre is styled the symbol of
strength, as Hiram Abif is of beauty. But I doubt the antiquity or
authenticity of any such symbolism. Hiram of Tyre can only be considered,
historically, as being necessary to complete the myth and symbolism of Hiram
Abif. The king of Tyre is an historical personage, and there is no necessity
for transforming him into a symbol, while his historical character lends
credit and validity to the philosophical myth of the third degree of
HIRAM THE BUILDER. An epithet
of Hiram Abif. For the full significance of the term, see the word
HO-HI. A cabalistic
pronunciation of the tetragrammaton, or ineffable name of God; it is most
probably the true one; and as it literally means HE-SHE, it is supposed to
denote the hermaphroditic essence of Jehovah, as containing within himself
the male and the female principle,—the generative and the prolific energy of
HO The sacred name of God
among the Druids. Bryant supposes that by it they intended the Great Father
Noah; but it is very possible that it was a modification of the Hebrew
tetragrammaton, being the last syllable read cabalistically (see ho-hi);
if so, it signified the great male principle of nature. But HU, in Hebrew
הוא, is claimed by Talmudic writers to be one of the names of God; and the
passage in Isaiah xlii. 8, in the original ani Jehovah, Hu shemi,
which is in the common version "I am the LORD; that is my name," they
interpret, "I am Jehovah; my name is Hu."
HUTCHINSON, WILLIAM. A
distinguished masonic writer of England, who lived in the eighteenth
century. He is the author of "The Spirit of Masonry," published in 1775.
This was the first English work of any importance that sought to give a
scientific interpretation of the symbols of Freemasonry; it is, in fact, the
earliest attempt of any kind to treat Freemasonry as a science of symbolism.
Hutchinson, however, has to some extent impaired the value of his labors by
contending that the institution is exclusively Christian in its character
IH-HO. See Ho-hi.
IMMORTALITY OF THE SOUL. This
is one of the two religious dogmas which have always been taught in
It was also taught in all the
Rites and Mysteries of antiquity.
The doctrine was taught as an
abstract proposition by the ancient priesthood of the Pure or Primitive
Freemasonry of antiquity, but was conveyed to the mind of the initiate, and
impressed upon him by a scenic representation in the ancient Mysteries, or
the Spurious Freemasonry of the ancients.
INCOMMUNICABLE NAME. The
tetragrammaton, so called because it was not common to, and could not be
bestowed upon, nor shared by, any other being. It was proper to the true God
alone. Thus Drusius (Tetragrammaton, sive de Nomine Dei proprio, p. 108)
says, "Nomen quatuor literarum proprie et absolute non tribui nisi Deo vero.
Unde doctores catholici dicunt incommunicabile [not common] esse
INEFFABLE NAME. The
tetragrammaton. So called because it is ineffabile, or
unpronounceable. See Tetragrammaton.
INTRUSTING, RITE OF. That
part of the ceremony of initiation which consists in communicating to the
aspirant or candidate the aporrheta, or secrets of the mystery.
INUNCTION. The act of
anointing. This was a religious ceremony practised from the earliest times.
By the pouring on of oil, persons and things were consecrated to sacred
INVESTITURE, RITE OF. That
part of the ceremony of initiation which consists of clothing the candidate
masonically. It is a symbol of purity.
ISH CHOTZEB. Hebrew איש הצב,
hewers of stones. The Fellow Crafts at the temple of Solomon. (2
Chron. ii. 2.).
ISH SABAL. Hebrew איש סבל,
bearers of burdens. The Apprentices at the temple of Solomon. (2 Chron.
JAH. It is in Hebrew יה
whence Maimonides calls it "the two-lettered name," and derives it from the
tetragrammaton, of which it is an abbreviation. Others have denied this, and
assert that Jah is a name independent of Jehovah, but expressing the
same idea of the divine essenee. See Gataker, De Nom. Tetrag..
JEHOVAH. The incommunicable,
ineffable name of God, in Hebrew יהוה, and called, from the four letters of
which it consists, the tetragrammaton, or four-lettered name.
LABOR. Since the article on
the Symbolism of Labor was written, I have met with an address delivered in
1868 by brother Troué, before St. Peter's Lodge in Martinico, which contains
sentiments on the relation of Masonry to labor which are well worth a
translation from the original French. See Bulletin du Grand Orient de
France, December, 1868.
"Our name of Mason, and our
emblems, distinctly announce that our object is the elevation of labor.
"We do not, as masons,
consider labor as a punishment inflicted on man; but on the contrary, we
elevate it in our thought to the height of a religious act, which is the
most acceptable to God because it is the most useful to man and to society.
"We decorate ourselves with
the emblems of labor to affirm that our doctrine is an incessant protest
against the stigma branded on the law of labor, and which an error of
apprehension, proceeding from the ignorance of men in primitive times has
erected into a dogma; an error that has resulted in the production of this
anti-social phenomenon which we meet with every day; namely, that the
degradation of the workman is the greater as his labor is more severe, and
the elevation of the idler is higher as his idleness is more complete. But
the study of the laws which maintain order in nature, released from the
fetters of preconceived ideas, has led the Freemasons to that doctrine, far
more moral than the contrary belief, that labor is not an expiation, but a
law of harmony, from the subjection to which man cannot be released without
impairing his own happiness, and deranging the order of creation. The design
of Freemasons is, then, the rehabilitation of labor, which is indicated by
the apron which we wear, and the gavel, the trowel, and the level, which are
found among our symbols."
Hence the doctrine of this
work is, that Freemasonry teaches not only the necessity, but the nobility,
And that labor is the proper
worship due by man to God.
LADDER. A symbol of
progressive advancement from a lower to a higher sphere, which is common to
Masonry, and to many, if not all, of the ancient Mysteries.
LADDER, BRAHMINICAL. The
symbolic ladder used in the Mysteries of Brahma. It had seven steps,
symbolic of the seven worlds of the Indian universe.
LADDER, MITHRAITIC. The
symbolic ladder used in the Persian Mysteries of Mithras. It had seven
steps, symbolic of the seven planets and the seven metals.
LADDER, SCANDINAVIAN. The
symbolic ladder used in the Gothic Mysteries. Dr. Oliver refers it to the
Yggrasil, or sacred ash tree. But the symbolism is either very abstruse or
LADDER, THEOLOGICAL. The
symbolic ladder of the masonic Mysteries. It refers to the ladder seen by
Jacob in his vision, and consists, like all symbolical ladders, of seven
rounds, alluding to the four cardinal and the three theological virtues.
LAMB. A symbol of innocence.
A very ancient symbol.
LAMB, PASCHAL. See Paschal
LAMBSKIN APRON. See Apron.
LAW, ORAL. See Oral Law.
LEGEND. A narrative, whether
true or false, that has been traditionally preserved from the time of its
first oral communication. Such is the definition of a masonic legend. The
authors of the Conversations-Lexicon, referring to the monkish Lives of the
Saints which originated in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, say that
the title legend was given to all fictions which make pretensions to
truth. Such a remark, however correct it may be in reference to these
monkish narratives, which were often invented as ecclesiastical exercises,
is by no means applicable to the legends of Freemasonry. These are not
necessarily fictitious, but are either based on actual and historical facts
which have been but slightly modificd, or they are the offspring and
expansion of some symbolic idea in which latter respect they differ entirely
from the monastic legends, which often have only the fertile imagination of
some studious monk for the basis of their construction.
LEGEND OF THE ROYAL ARCH
DEGREE. Much of this legend is a mythical history; but some portion of it is
undoubtedly a philosophical myth. The destruction and the reëdification of
the temple, the captivity and the return of the captives, are matters of
history; but many of the details have been invented and introduced for the
purpose of giving form to a symbolic idea.
LEGEND OF THE THIRD DEGREE.
In all probability this legend is a mythical history, in which truth is very
largely and preponderatingly mixed with fiction.
It is the most important and
significant of the legendary symbols of Freemasonry.
Has descended from age to age
by oral tradition, and has been preserved in every masonic rite.
No essential alteration of it
has ever been made in any masonic system, but the interpretations of it have
been various; the most general one is, that it is a symbol of the
resurrection and the immortality of the soul.
Some continental writers have
supposed that it was a symbol of the downfall of the Order of Templars, and
its hoped-for restoration. In some of the high philosophical degrees it is
supposed to be a symbol of the sufferings, death, and resurrection Christ.
Hutchinson thought it a symbol of the decadence of the Jewish religion, and
the rise of the Christian on its ruins. Oliver says that it symbolically
refers to the murder of Abel, the death of our race through Adam, and its
restoration through Christ.
Ragon thinks that it is a
symbol of the sun shorn of its vigor by the three winter months, and
restored to generative power by the spring. And lastly, Des Etangs says that
it is a symbol of eternal reason, whose enemies are the vices that deprave
and finally destroy humanity.
But none of these
interpretations, except the first, can be sustained.
LETTUCE. The sacred plant of
the Mysteries of Adonis; a symbol of immortality, and the analogue of the
LEVEL. One of the working
tools of a Fellow Craft. It is a symbol of the equality of station of all
men before God.
LIBERAL ARTS AND SCIENCES. In
the seventh century, all learning was limited to the seven liberal arts and
sciences; their introduction into Freemasonry, referring to this theory, is
a symbol of the completion of human learning.
LIGHT. It denotes truth and
knowledge, and is so explained in all the ancient systems; in initiation, it
is not material but intellectual light that is sought.
It is predominant as a symbol
in all the ancient initiations.
There it was revered because
it was an emanation trom the sun, the common object of worship; but the
theory advanced by some writers, that the veneration of light originally
proceeded from its physical qualities, is not correct.
Pythagoras called it the good
principle in nature; and the Cabalists taught that eternal light filled all
space before the creation, and that after creation it retired to a central
spot, and became the instrument of the Divine Mind in creating matter.
It is the symbol of the
autopsy, or the full perfection and fruition of initiation.
It is therefore a fundamental
symbol in Freemasonry, and contains within itself the very essence of the
LINGAM. The phallus was so
called by the Indian nations of the East. See Phallus.
LODGE. The place where
Freemasons meet, and also the congregation of masons so met. The word is
derived from the lodges occupied by the travelling Freemasons of the
It is a symbol of the world,
Its form, an oblong square,
is symbolic of the supposed oblong form of the world as known to the
LOST WORD. There is a masonic
myth that there was a certain word which was lost and afterwards recovered.
It is not material what the
word was, nor how lost, nor when recovered: the symbolism refers only to the
abstract idea of a loss and a recovery.
It is a symbol of divine
The search for it was also
made by the philosophers and priests in the Mysteries of the Spurious
LOTUS. The sacred plant of
the Brahminical Mysteries, and the analogue of the acacia.
It was also a sacred plant
among the Egyptians.
LUSTRATION. A purification by
washing the hands or body in consecrated water, practised in the ancient
Mysteries. See Purification.
LUX (light). One of
the appellations bestowed upon Freemasonry, to indicate that it is that
sublime doctrine of truth by which the pathway of him who has attained it is
to be illumined in the pilgrimage of life. Among the Rosicrucians, light was
the knowledge of the philosopher's stone; and Mosheim says that in chemical
language the cross was an emblem of light, because it contains within its
figure the forms of the three figures of which LVX, or light, is composed.
LUX E TENEBRIS (light out
of darkness). A motto of the Masonic Order, which is equivalent to
"truth out of initiation;" light being the symbol of truth, and darkness the
symbol of initiation commenced.
MAN. Repeatedly referred to
by Christ and the apostles as the symbol of a temple.
MASTER MASON. The third
degree of Ancient Craft Masonry, analogous to the epopt of the ancient
MENATZCHIM. Hebrew מנצהים
superintendents, or overseers. The Master Masons at the temple of
Solomon. (2 Chron. ii. 2.)
MENU. In the Indian
mythology, Menu is the son of Brahma, and the founder of the Hindoo
religion. Thirteen other Menus are said to exist, seven of whom have already
reigned on earth. But it is the first one whose instructions constitute the
whole civil and religious polity of the Hindoos. The code attributed to him
by the Brahmins has been translated by Sir William Jones, with the title of
"The Institutes of Menu."
MIDDLE CHAMBER. A part of the
Solomonic temple, which was approached by winding stairs, but which was
certainly not appropriated to the purpose indicated in the Fellow Craft's
The legend of the Winding
Stairs is therefore only a philosophical myth.
It is a symbol of this life
and its labors.
MISTLETOE. The sacred plant
of Druidism; commemorated also in the Scandinavian rites. It is the analogue
of the acacia, and like all the other sacred plants of antiquity, is a
symbol of the immortality of the soul. Lest the language of the text should
be misunderstood, it may be remarked here that the Druidical and the
Scandinavian rites are not identical. The former are Celtic, the latter
Gothic. But the fact that in both the mistletoe was a sacred plant affords a
violent presumption that there must have been a common point from which both
religions started. There was, as I have said, an identity of origin for the
same ancient and general symbolic idea.
MITHRAS. He was the god
worshipped by the ancient Persians, and celebrated in their Mysteries as the
symbol of the sun. In the initiation in these Mysteries, the candidate
passed through many terrible trials, and his courage and fortitude were
exposed to the most rigorous tests. Among others, after ascending the
mystical ladder of seven steps, he passed through a scenic representation of
Hades, or the infernal regions; out of this and the surrounding darkness he
was admitted into the full light of Elysium, where he was obligated by an
oath of secrecy, and invested by the Archimagus, or High Priest, with the
secret instructions of the rite, among which was a knowledge of the
MOUNT CALVARY. A small hill
of Jerusalem, in a westerly direction, and not far from Mount Moriah. In the
legends of Freemasonry it is known as "a small hill near Mount Moriah," and
is referred to in the third degree. This "small hill" having been determined
as the burial-place of Jesus, the symbol has been Christianized by many
There are many masonic
traditions, principally borrowed from the Talmud, connected with Mount
Calvary; such as, that it was the place where Adam was buried, &c.
MOUNT MORIAH. The hill in
Jerusalem on which the temple of Solomon was built.
MYRTLE. The sacred plant in
the Eleusinian Mysteries, and, as symbolic of a resurrection and
immortality, the analogue of the acacia.
MYSTERIES. A secret worship
paid by the ancients to several of the pagan gods, to which none were
admitted but those who had been solemnly initiated. The object of
instruction in these Mysteries was, to teach the unity of God and the
immortality of the soul. They were divided into Lesser and Greater
Mysteries. The former were merely preparatory. In the latter the whole
knowledge was communicated. Speaking of the doctrine that was communicated
to the initiates, Philo Judaeus says that "it is an incorruptible treasure,
not like gold or silver, but more precious than everything beside; for it is
the knowledge of the Great Cause, and of nature, and of that which is born
of both." And his subsequent language shows that there was a confraternity
existing among the initiates like that of the masonic institution; for he
says, with his peculiar mysticism, "If you meet an initiate, besiege him
with your prayers that he conceal from you no new mysteries that he may
know; and rest not until you have obtained them. For me, although I was
initiated into the Great Mysteries by Moses, the friend of God, yet, having
seen Jeremiah, I recognized him not only as an Initiate, but as a
Hierophant; and I followed his school." So, too, the mason acknowledges
every initiate as his brother, and is ever ready and anxious to receive all
the light that can be bestowed on the Mysteries in which he has been
MYSTES. (From the Greek μύω,
to shut the eyes.) One who had been initiated into the Lesser
Mysteries of paganism. He was now blind, but when he was initiated into the
Greater Mysteries he was called an Epopt, or one who saw.
MYTH. Grote's definition of
the myth, which is cited in the text, may be applied without modification to
the myths of Freemasonry, although intended by the author only for the myths
of the ancient Greek religion.
The myth, then, is a
narrative of remote date, not necessarily true or false, but whose truth can
only be certified by internal evidence. The word was first applied to those
fables of the pagan gods which have descended from the remotest antiquity,
and in all of which there prevails a symbolic idea, not always, however,
capable of a positive interpretation. As applied to Freemasonry, the words
myth and legend are synonymous.
From this definition it will
appear that the myth is really only the interpretation of an idea. But how
we are to read these myths will best appear from these noble words of Max
Müller: "Everything is true, natural, significant, if we enter with a
reverent spirit into the meaning of ancient art and ancient language.
Everything becomes false, miraculous, and unmeaning, if we interpret the
deep and mighty words of the seers of old in the shallow and feeble sense of
modern chroniclers." (Science of Language, 2d Ser. p. 578.).
MYTH, HISTORICAL. An
historical myth is a myth that has a known and recognized foundation in
historical truth, but with the admixture of a preponderating amount of
fiction in the introduction of personages and circumstances. Between the
historical myth and the mythical history, the distinction as laid down in
the text cannot always be preserved, because we are not always able to
determine whether there is a preponderance of truth or of fiction in the
legend or narrative under examination.
MYTHICAL HISTORY. A myth or
legend in which the historical and truthful greatly preponderate over the
inventions of fiction.
MYTHOLOGY. Literally, the
science of myths; and this is a very appropriate definition, for mythology
is the science which treats of the religion of the ancient pagans, which was
almost altogether founded on myths, or popular traditions and legendary
tales; and hence Keightly (Mythol. of Ancient Greece and Italy, p. 2) says
that "mythology may be regarded as the repository of the early religion of
the people." Its interest to a masonic student arises from the constant
antagonism that existed between its doctrines and those of the Primitive
Freemasonry of antiquity and the light that the mythological Mysteries throw
upon the ancient organization of Speculative Masonry.
MYTH, PHILOSOPHICAL. This is
a myth or legend that is almost wholly unhistorical, and which has been
invented only for the purpose of enunciating and illustrating a particular
thought or dogma.
NAME. All Hebrew names are
significant, and were originally imposed with reference to some fact or
feature in the history or character of the persons receiving them. Camden
says that the same custom prevailed among all the nations of antiquity. So
important has this subject been considered, that "Onomastica," or treatises
on the signification of names have been written by Eusebius and St. Jerome,
by Simonis and Hillerus, and by several other scholars, of whom Eusebe
Salverte is the most recent and the most satisfactory. Shuckford (Connect.
ii. 377) says that the Jewish Rabbins thought that the true knowledge of
names was a science preferable to the study of the written law.
NAME OF GOD. The true
pronunciation, and consequently the signification, of the name of God can
only be obtained through a cabalistical interpretation.
It is a symbol of divine
truth. None but those who are familiar with the subject can have any notion
of the importance bestowed on this symbol by the Orientalists. The Arabians
have a science called Ism Allah, or the science of the name of God;
and the Talmudists and Rabbins have written copiously on the same subject.
The Mussulmans, says Salverte (Essai sur les Noms, ii. 7), have one hundred
names of God, which they repeat while counting the beads of a rosary.
NEOPHYTE. (From the Greek
νέον and φυιὸν, a new plant.) One who has been recently initiated in
the Mysteries. St. Paul uses the same word (I Tim. iii. 6) to denote one who
had been recently converted to the Christian faith.
NOACHIDAE. The descendants of
Noah, and the transmitters of his religious dogmas, which were the unity of
God and the immortality of the soul. The name has from the earliest times
been bestowed upon the Freemasons, who teach the same doctrines. Thus in the
"old charges," as quoted by Anderson (Const. edit. 1738, p. 143), it is
said, "A mason is obliged by his tenure to observe the moral law as a true
NOACHITES. The same as
Noachidae, which see.
NORTH. That part of the earth
which, being most removed from the influence of the sun at his meridian
height, is in Freemasonry called "a place of darkness." Hence it is a symbol
of the profane world.
NORTH-EAST CORNER. An
important ceremony of the first degree, which refers to the north-east
corner of the lodge, is explained by the symbolism of the corner-stone.
The corner-stone of a
building is always laid in the north-east corner, for symbolic reasons.
The north-east point of the
heavens was especially sacred among the Hindoos.
In the symbolism of
Freemasonry, the north refers to the outer or profane world, and the east to
the inner world of Masonry; and hence the north-east is symbolic of the
double position of the neophyte, partly in the darkness of the former,
partly in the light of the latter.
NUMBERS. The symbolism of
sacred numbers, which prevails very extensively in Freemasonry, was
undoubtedly borrowed from the school of Pythagoras; but it is just as likely
that he got it from Egypt or Babylon, or from both. The Pythagorean doctrine
was, according to Aristotle (Met. xii. 8), that all things proceed from
numbers. M. Dacier, however, in his life of the philosopher, denies that the
doctrine of numbers was taught by Pythagoras himself, but attributes it to
his later disciples. But his arguments are not conclusive or satisfactory.
OATH OF SECRECY. It was
always administered to the candidate in the ancient Mysteries.
ODD NUMBERS. In the system of
Pythagoras, odd numbers were symbols of perfection. Hence the sacred numbers
of Freemasonry are all odd. They are 3, 5, 7, 9, 15, 27, 33, and 81.
OIL. An element of masonic
consecration, and, as a symbol of prosperity and happiness, is intended,
under the name of the "oil of joy," to indicate the expected propitious
results of the consecration of any thing or person to a sacred purpose.
OLIVE. In a secondary sense,
the symbol of peace and of victory; but in its primary meaning, like all the
other Sacred plants of antiquity, a symbol of immortality; and thus in the
Mysteries it was the analogue of the acacia of the Freemasons.
OLIVER. The Rev. George
Oliver, D.D., of Lincolnshire, England, who died in 1868, is by far the most
distinguished and the most voluminous of the English writers on Freemasonry.
Looking to his vast labors and researches in the arcana of the science, no
student of masonry can speak of his name or his memory without profound
reverence for his learning, and deep gratitude for the services that he has
accomplished. To the author of this work the recollection will ever be most
grateful that he enjoyed the friendship of so good and so great a man; one
of whom we may testify, as Johnson said of Goldsmith, that "nihil quod
tetigit non ornavit." In his writings he has traversed the whole field of
masonic literature and science, and has treated, always with great ability
and wonderful research, of its history, its antiquities, its rites and
ceremonies, its ethics, and its symbols. Of all his works, his "Historical
Landmarks," in two volumes, is the most important, the most useful, and the
one which will perhaps the longest perpetuate his memory. In the study of
his works, the student must be careful not to follow too implicitly all his
conclusions. These were in his own mind controlled by the theory which he
had adopted, and which he continuously maintained, that Freemasonry was a
Christian institution, and that the connection between it and the Christian
religion was absolute and incontrovertible. He followed in the footsteps of
Hutchinson, but with a far more expanded view of the masonic system.
OPERATIVE MASONRY. Masonry
considered merely as a useful art, intended for the protection and the
convenience of man by the erection of edifices which may supply his
intellectual, religious, and physical wants.
In contradistinction to
Speculative Masonry, therefore, it is said to be engaged in the construction
of a material temple.
ORAL LAW. The oral law among
the Jews was the commentary on and the interpretation of the written
contained in the Pentateuch; and the tradition is, that it was delivered to
Moses at the same time, accompanied by the divine command, "Thou shalt not
divulge the words which I have said to thee out of my mouth." The oral law
was, therefore, never intrusted to books; but being preserved in the
memories of the judges, prophets, priests, and wise men, was handed down
from one to the other through a long succession of ages. But after the
destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans under Adrian, A.D. 135, and the final
dispersion of the Jews, fears being entertained that the oral law would be
lost, it was then committed to writing, and now constitutes the text of the
ORMUZD. Worshipped by the
disciples of Zoroaster as the principle of good, and symbolized by light.
OSIRIS. The chief god of the
ancient Egyptians, and worshipped as a symbol of the sun, and more
philosophically as the male or generative principle. Isis, his wife, was the
female or prolific principle; and Horus, their child, was matter, or the
world—the product of the two principles.
OSIRIS, MYSTERIES OF. The
Osirian Mysteries consisted in a scenic representation of the murder of
Osiris by Typhon, the subsequent recovery of his mutilated body by Isis, and
his deification, or restoration to immortal life.
OVAL TEMPLES. Temples of an
oval form were representations of the mundane egg, a symbol of the world.
PALM TREE. In its secondary
sense the palm tree is a symbol of victory; but in its primary signification
it is a symbol of the victory over death, that is, immortality.
PARABLE. A narrative in which
one thing is compared with another. It is in principle the same as a symbol
or an allegory.
PARALLEL LINES. The lines
touching the circle in the symbol of the point within a circle. They are
said to represent St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist; but they
really refer to the solstitial points Cancer and Capricorn, in the zodiac.
PASTOS. (From the Greek
παστὸς, a nuptial couch.) The coffin or grave which contained the
body of the god or hero whose death was scenically represented in the
It is the analogue of the
grave in the third degree of Masonry.
PELASGIAN RELIGION. The
Pelasgians were the oldest if not the aboriginal inhabitants of Greece.
Their religion differed from that of the Hellenes who succeeded them in
being less poetical, less mythical, and more abstract. We know little of
their religious worship, except by conjecture; but we may suppose it
resembled in some respects the doctrines of the Primitive Freemasonry.
Creuzer thinks that the Pelasgians were either a nation of priests or a
nation ruled by priests.
PHALLUS. A representation of
the virile member, which was venerated as a religious symbol very
universally, and without the slightest lasciviousness, by the ancients. It
was one of the modifications of sun worship, and was a symbol of the
fecundating power of that luminary. The masonic point within a circle is
undoubtedly of phallic origin.
PHILOSOPHY OF FREEMASONRY.
The dogmas taught in the masonic system constitute its philosophy. These
consist in the contemplation of God as one and eternal, and of man as
immortal. In other words, the philosophy of Freemasonry inculcates the unity
of God and the immortality of the soul.
PLUMB. One of the working
tools of a Fellow Craft, and a symbol of rectitude of conduct.
POINT WITHIN A CIRCLE. It is
derived from the ancient sun worship, and is in reality of phallic origin.
It is a symbol of the universe, the sun being represented by the point,
while the circumference is the universe.
PORCH OF THE TEMPLE. A symbol
of the entrance into life.
PRIMITIVE FREEMASONRY. The
Primitive Freemasonry of the antediluvians is a term for which we are
indebted to Oliver, although the theory was broached by earlier writers, and
among them by the Chevalier Ramsay. The theory is, that the principles and
doctrines of Freemasonry existed in the earliest ages of the world, and were
believed and practised by a primitive people, or priesthood, under the name
of Pure or Primitive Freemasonry. That this Freemasonry, that is to say, the
religious doctrine inculcated by it, was, after the flood, corrupted by the
pagan philosophers and priests, and, receiving the title of Spurious
Freemasory, was exhibited in the ancient Mysteries. The Noachidae,
however, preserved the principles of the Primitive Freemasonry, and
transmitted them to succeeding ages, when at length they assumed the name of
Speculative Masonry. The Primitive Freemasonry was probably without
ritual or symbolism, and consisted only of a series of abstract propositions
derived from antediluvian traditions. Its dogmas were the unity of God and
the immortality of the soul.
PROFANE. One who has not been
initiated as a Freemason. In the technical language of the Order, all who
are not Freemasons are profanes. The term is derived from the Latin words
pro fano, which literally signify "in front of the temple," because
those in the ancient religions who were not initiated in the sacred rites or
Mysteries of any deity were not permitted to enter the temple, but were
compelled to remain outside, or in front of it. They were kept on the
outside. The expression a profane is not recognized as a noun
substantive in the general usage of the language; but it has been adopted as
a technical term in the dialect of Freemasonry, in the same relative sense
in which the word layman is used in the professions of law and
PURE FREEMASONRY OF
ANTIQUITY. The same as Primitive Freemasonry,—which see.
PURIFICATION. A religious
rite practised by the ancients, and which was performed before any act of
devotion. It consisted in washing the hands, and sometimes the whole body,
in lustral or consecrated water. It was intended as a symbol of the internal
purification of the heart. It was a ceremony preparatory to initiation in
all the ancient Mysteries.
PYTHAGORAS. A Grecian
philosopher, supposed to have been born in the island of Samos, about 584
B.C. He travelled extensively for the purpose of acquiring knowledge. In
Egypt he was initiated in the Mysteries of that country by the priests. He
also repaired to Babylon, where he became acquainted with the mystical
learning of the Chaldeans, and had, no doubt, much communication with the
Israelitish captives who had been exiled from Jerusalem, and were then
dwelling in Babylon. On his return to Europe he established a school, which
in its organization, as well as its doctrines, bore considerable resemblance
to Speculative Masonry; for which reason he has been claimed as "an ancient
friend and brother" by the modern Freemasons.
RESURRECTION. This doctrine
was taught in the ancient Mysteries, as it is in Freemasonry, by a scenic
representation. The initiation was death, the autopsy was resurrection.
Freemasonry does not interest itself with the precise mode of the
resurrection, or whether the body buried and the body raised are in all
their parts identical. Satisfied with the general teaching of St. Paul,
concerning the resurrection that "it is sown a natural body, it is raised a
spiritual body," Freemasonry inculcates by its doctrine of the resurrection
the simple fact of a progressive advancement from a lower to a higher
sphere, and the raising of the soul from the bondage of death to its
inheritance of eternal life.
RITUAL. The forms and
ceremonies used in conferring the degrees, or in conducting the labors, of a
lodge are called the ritual. There are many rites of Freemasonry, which
differ from each other in the number and division of the degrees, and in
their rituals, or forms and ceremonies. But the great principles of
Freemasonry, its philosophy and its symbolism, are alike in all. It is
evident, then, that in an investigation of the symbolism of Freemasonry, we
have no concern with its ritual, which is but an outer covering that is
intended to conceal the treasure that is within.
ROSICRUCIANS. A sect of
hermetical philosophers, founded in the fifteenth century, who were engaged
in the study of abstruse sciences. It was a secret society much resembling
the masonic in its organization, and in some of the subjects of its
investigation; but it was in no other way connected with Freemasonry. It is,
however, well worth the study of the masonic student on account of the light
that it throws upon many of the masonic symbols.
ROYAL ART. Freemasonry is so
called because it is supposed to have been founded by two kings,—the kings
of Israel and Tyre,—and because it has been subsequently encouraged and
patronized by monarchs in all countries.
SABIANISM, or SABAISM. The
worship of the sun, moon, and stars, the צבא השמים TSABA Hashmaim,
"the host of heaven." It was practised in Persia, Chaldea, India, and other
Oriental countries, at an early period of the world's history. Sun-worship
has had a powerful influence on subsequent and more rational religions, and
relics of it are to be found even in the symbolism of Freemasonry.
SACELLUM. A sacred place
consecrated to a god, and containing an altar.
SAINTE CROIX. The work of the
Baron de Sainte Croix, in two volumes, entitled, "Recherches Historiques et
Critiques sur les Mystères du Paganisme," is one of the most valuable and
instructive works that we have in any language on the ancient
Mysteries,—those religious associations whose history and design so closely
connect them with Freemasonry. To the student of masonic philosophy and
symbolism this work of Sainte Croix is absolutely essential.
SALSETTE. An island in the
Bay of Bombay, celebrated for stupendous caverns excavated artificially out
of the solid rock, and which were appropriated to the initiations in the
ancient Mysteries of India.
SENSES, FIVE HUMAN. A symbol
of intellectual cultivation.
SETH. It is the masonic
theory that the principles of the Pure or Primitive Freemasonry were
preserved in the race of Seth, which had always kept separate from that of
Cain, but that after the flood they became corrupted, by a secession of a
portion of the Sethites, who established the Spurious Freemasonry of the
SEVEN. A sacred number among
the Jews and the Gentiles, and called by Pythagoras a "venerable number."
SHEM HAMPHORASH. (שם המפירש
the declaratory name.) The tetragrammaton is so called, because, of
all the names of God, it alone distinctly declares his nature and essence as
self-existent and eternal.
SHOE. See Investiture,
SIGNS. There is abundant
evidence that they were used in the ancient Mysteries. They are valuable
only as modes of recognition. But while they are absolutely conventional,
they have, undoubtedly, in Freemasonry, a symbolic reference.
SIVA. One of the
manifestations of the supreme deity of the Hindoos, and a symbol of the sun
in its meridian.
SONS OF LIGHT. Freemasons are
so called because Lux, or Light, is one of the names of
SOLOMON. The king of Israel,
and the founder of the temple of Jerusalem and of the temple organization of
That his mind was eminently
symbolic in its propensities, is evident from all the writings that are
attributed to him.
Freemasonry considered as a science which speculates on the character of God
and man, and is engaged in philosophical investigations of the soul and a
future existence, for which purpose it uses the terms of an operative art.
It is engaged symbolically in
the construction of a spiritual temple.
There is in it always a
progress—an advancement from a lower to a higher sphere.
SPIRITUAL TEMPLE. The body of
man; that temple alluded to by Christ and St. Paul; the temple, in the
construction of which the Speculative Mason is engaged, in contradistinction
to that material temple which occupies the labors of the Operative Mason.
SPURIOUS FREEMASONRY OF
ANTIQUITY. A term applied to the initiations in the Mysteries of the ancient
pagan world, and to the doctrines taught in those Mysteries. See
SQUARE. A geometric figure
consisting of four equal sides and equal angles. In Freemasonry it is a
symbol of morality, or the strict performance of every duty. The Greeks
deemed it a figure of perfection, and the "square man" was a man of
SQUARE, TRYING. One of the
working-tools of a Fellow Craft, and a symbol of morality.
STONE OF FOUNDATION. A very
important symbol in the masonic system. It is like the word, the
symbol of divine truth.
STONE WORSHIP. A very early
form of fetichism. The Pelasgians are supposed to have given to their
statues of the gods the general form of cubical stones, whence in Hellenic
times came the Hermae, or images of Hermes.
SUBSTITUTE WORD. A symbol of
the unsuccessful search after divine truth, and the discovery in this life
of only an approximation to it.
SUN, RISING. In the Sabian
worship the rising sun was adored on its resurrection from the apparent
death of its evening setting. Hence, in the ancient Mysteries, the rising
sun was a symbol of the regeneration of the soul.
SUN-WORSHIP. The most ancient
of all superstitions. It prevailed especially in Phoenicia, Chaldea. and
Egypt, and traces of it have been discovered in Peru and Mexico. Its
influence was felt in the ancient Mysteries, and abundant allusions to it
are to be found in the symbolism of Freemasonry.
SWEDENBORG. A Swedish
philosopher, and the founder of a religious sect. Clavel, Ragon, and some
other writers have sought to make him the founder of a masonic rite also,
but without authority. In 1767 Chastanier established the rite of
Illuminated Theosophists, whose instructions are derived from the writings
of Swedenborg, but the sage himself had nothing to do with it. Yet it cannot
be denied that the mind of Swedenborg was eminently symbolic in character,
and that the masonic student may derive many valuable ideas from portions of
his numerous works, especially from his "Celestial Arcana" and his
SYMBOL. A visible sign with
which a spiritual feeling, emotion, or idea is connected.—Müller.
Every natural thing which is made the sign or representation of a moral idea
is a symbol.
SYMBOL, COMPOUND. A species
of symbol not unusual in Freemasonry, where the symbol is to be taken in a
double sense, meaning in its general application one thing, and then in a
special application another.
SYMBOLISM, SCIENCE OF. To
what has been said in the text, may be added the following apposite remarks
of Squier: "In the absence of a written language or forms of expression
capable of conveying abstract ideas, we can readily comprehend the
necessity, among a primitive people, of a symbolic system. That symbolism in
a great degree resulted from this necessity, is very obvious; and that,
associated with man's primitive religious systems, it was afterwards
continued, when in the advanced stage of the human mind, the previous
necessity no longer existed, is equally undoubted. It thus came to
constitute a kind of sacred language, and became invested with an esoteric
significance understood only by the few."—The Serpent Symbol in America,
TABERNACLE. Erected by Moses
in the wilderness as a temporary place for divine worship. It was the
antitype of the temple of Jerusalem, and, like it, was a symbol of the
TALISMAN. A figure either
carved in metal or stone, or delineated on parchment or paper, made with
superstitious ceremonies under what was supposed to be the special influence
of the planetary bodies, and believed to possess occult powers of protecting
the maker or possessor from danger. The figure in the text is a talisman,
and among the Orientals no talisman was more sacred than this one where the
nine digits are so disposed as to make 15 each way. The Arabians called it
zahal, which was the name of the planet Saturn, because the nine
digits added together make 45, and the letters of the word zahal are,
according to the numerical powers of the Arabic alphabet, equivalent to 45.
The cabalists esteem it because 15 was the numerical power of the letters
composing the word JAH, which is one of the names of God.
TALMUD. The mystical
philosophy of the Jewish Rabbins is contained in the Talmud, which is a
collection of books divided into two parts, the Mishna, which
contains the record of the oral law, first committed to writing in the
second or third century, and the Gemara, or commentaries on it. In
the Talmud much will be found of great interest to the masonic student.
TEMPLE. The importance of the
temple in the symbolism of Freemasonry will authorize the following citation
from the learned Montfaucon (Ant. ii. 1. ii. ch. ii.): "Concerning
the origin of temples, there is a variety of opinions. According to
Herodotus, the Egyptians were the first that made altars, statues, and
temples. It does not, however, appear that there were any in Egypt in the
time of Moses, for he never mentions them, although he had many
opportunities for doing so. Lucian says that the Egyptians were the first
people who built temples, and that the Assyrians derived the custom from
them, all of which is, however, very uncertain. The first allusion to the
subject in Scripture is the Tabernacle, which was, in fact, a portable
temple, and contained one place within it more holy and secret than the
others, called the Holy of Holies, and to which the adytum in
the pagan temples corresponded. The first heathen temple mentioned in
Scripture is that of Dagon, the god of the Philistines. The Greeks, who were
indebted to the Phoenicians for many things, may be supposed to have learned
from them the art of building temples; and it is certain that the Romans
borrowed from the Greeks both the worship of the gods and the construction
TEMPLE BUILDER. The title by
which Hiram Abif is sometimes designated.
TEMPLE OF SOLOMON. The
building erected by King Solomon on Mount Moriah, in Jerusalem, has been
often called "the cradle of Freemasonry," because it was there that that
union took place between the operative and speculative masons, which
continued for centuries afterwards to present the true organization of the
As to the size of the temple,
the dimensions given in the text may be considered as accurate so far as
they agree with the description given in the First Book of Kings. Josephus
gives a larger measure, and makes the length 105 feet, the breadth 35 feet,
and the height 210 feet; but even these will not invalidate the statement in
the text, that in size it was surpassed by many a parish church.
TEMPLE SYMBOLISM. That
symbolism which is derived from the temple of Solomon. It is the most
fertile of all kinds of symbolism in the production of materials for the
TERMINUS. One of the most
ancient of the Roman deities. He was the god of boundaries and landmarks,
and his statue consisted only of a cubical stone, without arms or legs, to
show that he was immovable.
TETRACTYS. A figure used by
Pythagoras, consisting of ten points, arranged in a triangular form so as to
represent the monad, duad, triad, and quarterniad. It was considered as very
sacred by the Pythagoreans, and was to them what the tetragrammaton was to
TETRAGRAMMATON. (From the
Greek τετρὰς, four, and γρὰμμα, a letter). The four-lettered name of
God in the Hebrew language, which consisted of four letters, viz. יהוה
commonly, but incorrectly, pronounced Jehovah. As a symbol it greatly
pervaded the rites of antiquity, and was perhaps the earliest symbol
corrupted by the Spurious Freemasonry of the pagan Mysteries.
It was held by the Jews in
profound veneration, and its origin supposed to have been by divine
revelation at the burning bush.
The word was never
pronounced, but wherever met with Adonai was substituted for it,
which custom was derived from the perverted reading of a, passage in the
Pentateuch. The true pronunciation consequently was utterly lost; this is
explained by the want of vowels in the Hebrew alphabet, so that the true
vocalization of a word cannot be learned from the letters of which it is
The true pronunciation was
intrusted to the high priest; but lest the knowledge of it should be lost by
his sudden death, it was also communicated to his assistant; it was known
also, probably, to the kings of Israel.
The Cabalists and Talmudists
enveloped it in a host of superstitions.
It was also used by the
Essenes in their sacred rites, and by the Egyptians as a pass-word.
Cabalistically read and
pronounced, it means the male and female principle of nature, the generative
and prolific energy of creation.
THAMMUZ. A Syrian god, who
was worshipped by those women of the Hebrews who had fallen into idolatry.
The idol was the same as the Phoenician Adonis, and the Mysteries of the two
TRAVELLING FREEMASONS. See
TRESTLE BOARD. The board or
tablet on which the designs of the architect are inscribed. It is a symbol
of the moral law as set forth in the revealed will of God.
Every man must have his
trestle board, because it is the duty of every man to work out the task
which God, the chief Architect, has assigned to him.
TRIANGLE. A symbol of Deity.
This symbolism is found in
many of the ancient religions.
Among the Egyptians it was a
symbol of universal nature, or of the protection of the world by the male
and female energies of creation.
TRIANGLE, RADIATED. A
triangle placed within a circle of rays. In Christian art it is a symbol of
God; then the rays are called a glory. When they surround the
triangle in the form of a circle, the triangle is a symbol of the glory of
God. When the rays emanate from the centre of the triangle, it is a symbol
of divine light. This is the true form of the masonic radiated triangle.
TRILITERAL NAME. This is the
word AUM, which is the ineffable name of God among the Hindoos, and
symbolizes the three manifestations of the Brahminical supreme god, Brahma,
Siva, and Vishnu. It was never to be pronounced aloud, and was analogous to
the sacred tetragrammaton of the Jews.
TROWEL. One of the working
tools of a Master Mason. It is a symbol of brotherly love.
TRUTH. It was not always
taught publicly by the ancient philosophers to the people.
The search for it is the
object of Freemasonry. It is never found on earth, but a substitute for it
TUAPHOLL. A term used by the
Druids to designate an unhallowed circumambulation around the sacred cairn,
or altar, the movement being against the sun, that is, from west to east by
the north, the cairn being on the left hand of the circumambulator.
TUBAL CAIN. Of the various
etymologies of this name, only one is given in the text; but most of the
others in some way identify him with Vulcan. Wellsford (Mithridates Minor
p. 4) gives a singular etymology, deriving the name of the Hebrew patriarch
from the definite article ה converted into ת, or T and Baal,
"Lord," with the Arabic kayn, "a blacksmith," so that the word would
then signify "the lord of the blacksmiths." Masonic writers have, however,
generally adopted the more usual derivation of Cain, from a word
signifying possession; and Oliver descants on Tubal Cain as a symbol
of worldly possessions. As to the identity of Vulcan with Tubal Cain, we may
learn something from the definition of the offices of the former, as given
by Diodorus Siculus: "Vulcan was the first founder of works in iron, brass,
gold, silver, and all fusible metals; and he taught the uses to which fire
can be applied in the arts." See Genesis: "Tubal Cain, an instructor of
every artificer in brass and iron."
TWENTY-FOUR INCH GAUGE. A
two-foot rule. One of the working-tools of an Entered Apprentice, and a
symbol of time well employed.
TYPHON. The brother and
slayer of Osiris in the Egyptian mythology. As Osiris was a type or symbol
of the sun, Typhon was the symbol of winter, when the vigor, heat, and, as
it were, life of the sun are destroyed, and of darkness as opposed to light.
TYRE. A city of Phoenicia,
the residence of King Hiram, the friend and ally of Solomon, whom he
supplied with men and materials for the construction of the temple.
TYRIAN FREEMASONS. These were
the members of the Society of Dionysiac Artificers, who at the time of the
building of Solomon's temple flourished at Tyre. Many of them were sent to
Jerusalem by Hiram, King of Tyre, to assist King Solomon in the construction
of his temple. There, uniting with the Jews, who had only a knowledge of the
speculative principles of Freemasonry, which had been transmitted to them
from Noah, through the patriarchs, the Tyrian Freemasons organized that
combined system of Operative and Speculative Masonry which continued for
many centuries, until the beginning of the eighteenth, to characterize the
institution. See Dionysiac Artificers.
UNION. The union of the
operative with the speculative element of Freemasonry took place at the
building of King Solomon's temple.
UNITY OF GOD. This, as
distinguished from the pagan doctrine of polytheism, or a multitude of gods,
is one of the two religious truths taught in Speculative Masonry, the other
being the immortality of the soul.
WEARY SOJOURNERS. The legend
of the "three weary sojourners" in the Royal Arch degree is undoubtedly a
philosophical myth, symbolizing the search after truth.
WHITE. A symbol of innocence
Among the Pythagoreans it was
a symbol of the good principle in nature, equivalent to light.
WIDOW'S SON. An epithet
bestowed upon the chief architect of the temple, because he was "a widow's
son of the tribe of Naphthali." 1 Kings vii. 14.
WINDING STAIRS, LEGEND OF. A
legend in the Fellow Craft's degree having no historical truth, but being
simply a philosophical myth or legendary symbol intended to communicate a
It is the symbol of an ascent
from a lower to a higher sphere.
It commences at the porch of
the temple, which is a symbol of the entrance into life.
The number of steps are
always odd, because odd numbers are a symbol of perfection.
But the fifteen steps in the
American system are a symbol of the name of God, Jah.
WINE. An element of masonic
consecration, and, as a symbol of the inward refreshment of a good
conscience, is intended under the name of the "wine of refreshment," to
remind us of the eternal refreshments which the good are to receive in the
future life for the faithful performance of duty in the present.
WORD. In Freemasonry this is
a technical and symbolic term, and signifies divine truth. The search after
this word constitutes the whole system of speculative masonry.
WORD, LOST. See Lost Word.
WORD, SUBSTITUTE. See
WORK. In Freemasonry the
initiation of a candidate is called work. It is suggestive of the
doctrine that labor is a masonic duty.
YGGDRASIL. The sacred ash
tree in the Scandinavian Mysteries. Dr. Oliver propounds the theory that it
is the analogue of the theological ladder in the Masonic Mysteries. But it
is doubtful whether this theory is tenable.
YOD. A Hebrew letter, in form
thus י, and about equivalent to the English I or Y. It is the initial letter
of the tetragrammaton, and is often used, especially enclosed within a
triangle, as a substitute for, or an abridgement of, that sacred word.
It is a symbol of the
life-giving and sustaining power of God.
YONI. Among the nations and
religions of India the yoni was the representation of the female organ of
generation, and was the symbol of the prolific power of nature. It is the
same as the cteis among the Occidental nations.
ZENNAAR. The sacred girdle of
the Hindoos. It is supposed to be the analogue of the masonic apron.
ZOROASTER. A distinguished
philosopher and reformer, whose doctrines were professed by the ancient
Persians. The religion of Zoroaster was a dualism, in which the two
antagonizing principles were Ormuzd and Abriman, symbols of Light and
Darkness. It was a modification and purification of the old fire-worship, in
which the fire became a symbol of the sun, so that it was really a species
of sun-worship. Mithras, representing the sun, becomes the mediator between
Ormuzd, or the principle of Darkness, and the world.