I just wanted to thank Greenwood lodge 514 for a great time yesterday. They performed a great “Rusty Nail Degree”. For those who do not know what this is, it is a refresher course for those who have not been active in the lodge to help them remember the various aspects of being a Master Mason. If you have not been active in your lodge you might want to keep a watch out for another Rusty Nail degree. Contact your lodge and ask them about it.
By Lobb40118 on November 30, 2012
Posted in Events | Tagged degrees of freemasonry, Freemason, Freemasonry, greenwood lodge 514, indiana freemasons, Indianapolis Freemason, mason, Masonic, masonic education, masonic tools, master mason, rusty nail degree | Leave a response
By Lobb40118 on October 30, 2012
I just wanted to say those that are in need and are suffering on the east coast, people have you in their hearts and prayers. Stay safe and those who are not in the affected area help your fellow brother’s in their time of need.
By Lobb40118 on October 11, 2012
SHORT TALK BULLETIN – Vol.XIII March, 1935 No.3
THAT ANCIENT SQUARE
What one symbol is most typical of Freemasonry as a whole? Mason and non-Mason alike, nine times out of ten, will answer, “The Square!” Many learned writers on Freemasonry have denominated the square as the most important and vital, most typical and common symbol of the ancient Craft. Mackey terms it “one of the most important and significant symbols.” McBride said:
“-In Masonry or building, the great dominant law is the law of the square.” Newton’s words glow: “Very early the square became an emblem of truth, justice and righteousness, and so it remains to this day, though uncountable ages have passed. Simple, familiar, eloquent; it brings from afar a sense of wonder of the dawn, and it still teaches a lesson we find it hard to learn.” Haywood speaks of:
“—Its history, so varied and so ancient, its use, so universal.”
“An important emblem – passed into universal acceptance.” In his encyclopedia, Kenning copied Mackey’s phrase. Klein reverently denominates it “The Great Symbol.” I Kings, describing the Temple, states that “all the doors and the posts were square.” It is impossible definitely to say that the square is the oldest symbol in Freemasonry; who may determine when the circle, triangle or square first impressed men’s minds? But the square is older than history. Newton speaks of the oldest building known to man: “- A prehistoric tomb found in the sands at Hieraconpolis, is already right angled.”
Masonically the word “square” has the same three meanings given the syllable by the world: (1) The conception of right angleness – our ritual tells us that the square is an angle of ninety degrees, or the fourth of a circle; (2) The builder’s tool, one of our working tools, the Master’s own immovable jewel; (3) That quality of character which has made “a square man” synonymous not only with a member of our Fraternity, but with uprightness, honesty and dependability.
The earliest of the three meanings must have been the mathematical conception. As the French say, “it makes us furiously to think” to reflect upon the wisdom and reasoning powers of men who lived five thousand years ago, that they knew the principles of geometry by which a square can be constructed.
Plato, greatest of the Greek philosophers, wrote over the porch of the house in which he taught: “Let no one who is ignorant of geometry entry my doors.” Zenocrates , a follower of Plato, turned away an applicant for the teaching of the Academy, who was ignorant of geometry, with the words: “Depart, for thou has not the grip of philosophy.” Geometry is so intimately interwoven with architecture and building that “geometry, or Masonry, originally synonymous terms” is a part of most rituals. The science of measurements is concerned with angles, the construction of figures, the solution of problems concerning both, and all the rest upon the construction of a right angle, the solutions which sprang from the Pythagorean Problem, our “Forty-Seventh Problem of Euclid,” so prominent in the Master’s Degree.
The ancient Greek name of the square was “gnomon,” from whence comes our word “knowledge.” The Greek letter “gamma” formed like a square standing on one leg, the other pointing to the right – in all probability derived from the square, and “gnomon,” in turn, derived from the square which the philosophers knew was at the root of their mathematics.
Democritus, old philosopher, according to Clement of Alexandria, once exulted: “In the construction of plane figures with proof, no one has yet surpassed me, not even the Harpedonaptae of Egypt.” In the truth of his boast we have no interest, but much in the Harpedonaptae of Egypt. The names means, literally, “rope stretchers” or “Rope fasteners.” In the Berlin museum is a deed, written on leather, dating back to 2,000 B.C. which speaks of the work of rope stretchers; how much older rope stretching may be, as a means of constructing a square, is unknown, although the earliest known mathematical hand-book (that of Ahmes, who lived in the sixteenth or seventeenth Hyskos dynasty in Egypt, and is apparently a copy of a much older work which scholars trace back to 3400 B.C.), does not mention rope stretching as a means of square construction. Most students in school days learned a dozen ways of erecting one line perpendicular to another. It seems strange that any other people were ever ignorant of such simple mathematics. Yet all knowledge had a beginning. Masons learn of Pythagorean’s astonishment and delight at his discovery of the principle of the Forty-seventh Problem. Doubtless the first man who erected a square by stretching a rope was equally happy over his discovery. Researchers into the manner of construction of pyramids, temples and monuments in Egypt reveal a very strong feeling on the part of the builders for the proper orientation of their structures. Successfully to place the building so that certain points, corners or openings might face the sun or a star at a particular time, required very exact measurements. Among these, the laying down of the cross axis at a right angle to the main axis of the structure was highly important.
It was this which the Harpedonaptae accomplished with a long rope. The cord was first marked off in twelve equal portions, possible by knots, more probably, by markers thrust into the body of the rope. The marked rope was then laid upon the line on which a perpendicular (right angle) was to be erected. The rope was pegged down at the third marker from the from one end, and another, four markers further on. This left two free ends, one three total parts long, one five total parts long. With these ends the Harpedonatae scribed two semi-circles. When the point where these two met, was connected to the first peg (three parts from the end of the rope, a perfect right angle, or square, resulted.
Authorities have differed and much discussion has been had, on the “true form” of the Masonic square; whether a simple square should be made with legs of equal length, and marked with divisions into feet and inches, or with one keg longer than the other and marked as are carpenter’s squares today. Mackey says:
“It is proper that its true form should be preserved. The French Masons have almost universally given it with one leg longer than the other, thus making it a carpenter’s square. The American Masons, following the delineations of Jeremy L. Cross, have, while generally preserving the equality of length in the legs, unnecessarily marked its surface with inches, thus making it an instrument for measuring length and breadth, which it is not. It is simply the “trying square” of a stonemason, and has a plain surface, the sides embracing an angle of ninety degrees, and it is intended only to test the accuracy of the sides of a stone, and to see that its edges subtend the same angle.”
Commenting on this, the Editor of “the Builder” wrote (May, 1928):
“This is one of the occasions when this eminent student ventured into a field beyond his own knowledge, and attempted to decide a matter of fact from insufficient data. For actually, there is not, and never has been, any essential difference between the squares used by carpenters and stone workers. At least not such difference as Mackey assumes. He seems to imply that French Masons were guilty of an innovation in making the square with unequal limbs. This is rather funny, because the French (and the Masons of Europe generally) have merely maintained the original form, while English speaking Masonry, or rather the designers of Masonic jewels and furnishings in English speaking countries, have introduced a new form for the sake, apparently, of its greater symmetry. From medieval times up till the end of the eighteenth century, all representations of Mason’s squares show one limb longer than the other. In looking over the series of Masonic designs of different dates it is possible to observe the gradual lengthening of the shorter limb and the shortening of the longer one, till it is sometimes difficult to be certain at first glance if there is any difference between them. “There is absolute no difference in the use of the square in different crafts. In all the square is used to test work, but also to set it out. And a square with a graduated scale on it is at times just as great a convenience for the stonemason as for the carpenter. When workmen made their own squares there would be no uniformity in size or proportions, and very few would be graduated, though apparently this was sometimes done. It is rather curious that the cut which illustrates this article in Mackey’s Encyclopedia actually show a square with one limb longer than the other.” It is to be noted that old operative squares were either made wholly of wood, or of wood and metal, as indeed, small try squares are made today. Having one leg shorter than the other would materially reduce the chance of accident destroying the right angle which was the tools essential quality . . So that authorities who believe our equal legged squares not necessarily “true Masonic squares” have some practical reasons for their convictions.
It is of interest to recall McBride’s explanation of the “center” as used in English Lodges, and the “point within a circle,” familiar to us. He traces the medieval “secret of the square” to the use of the compasses to make the circle from which the square is laid out.
Lines connecting a point, placed anywhere on the circumference of a
circle, to the intersection with the circumference cut by a straight
line passing through the center of the circle, forms a perfect
square. McBride believed that our “point within a circle” was direct
reference to this early operative method of correcting the angles in
the wooden squares of operative cathedral builders, and that our present “two perpendicular lines” are a corruption of the two lines which connect points on the circle.
The symbolism of the square, as we know it, is also very old; just how ancient, as impossible to say as the age of the tool or the first conception of mathematical “square-ness.” In 1880 the Master of Ionic Lodge No. 1781, at Amot, China, speaking on Freemasonry in China said:
“From time immemorial we find the square and compasses used by Chinese writers to symbolize precisely the same phrases of moral conduct as in our system of Freemasonry. The earliest passage known to me which bears upon the subject is to be found in the Book of History embracing the period reaching from the twenty-fourth to the seventh century before Christ. There is an account of a military expedition where we read:
“Ye Officers of government, apply the Compasses!” “In another part of the same venerable record a Magistrate is spoken of as: ‘A man of the level, or the level man.’ “The public discourses of Confucius provide us with several Masonic allusions of a more or less definite character. For instance, when recounting his own degrees of moral progress in life, the Master tells us that only at seventy-five years of age could he venture to follow the inclinations of his heart without fear of ‘transgressing the limits of the square.’ This would be 481 B.C., but it is in the words of the great follower, Mencius, who flourished nearly two hundred years later, that we meet with a fuller and more impressive Masonic phraseology. In one chapter we are taught that just as the most skilled articifers are unable, without the aid of the square and compasses, to produce perfect rectangles or perfect circles, so must all men apply these tools figuratively to their lives, and the level and the markingline besides, if they would walk in the straight and even paths of wisdom, and keep themselves within the bounds of honor and virtue. In Book IV we read:
“The compasses and Square are the embodiment of the rectangular and the round, just as the prophets of old were the embodiment of the due relationship between man and man.”
In Book IV we find these words:
“The Master Mason, in teaching his apprentices, makes use of the compasses and the square. Ye who are engaged in the pursuit of wisdom must also make use of the compasses and the square.” In the “Great Learning,” admitted on all sides to date from between 300 to 400 years before Christ, in Chapter 10, we read that a man should abstain from doing unto others what he would not they should do unto him: “this,” adds the writer, “is called the principle of acting on the square.”
Independently of the Chinese, all peoples in all ages have thought of this fundamental angle, on which depends the solidity and lasting quality of buildings, as expressive of the virtues of honesty, uprightness and morality. Confucius, Plato, the Man of Galilee, stating the Golden Rule in positive form, all make the square an emblem of virtue.
In this very antiquity of the Craft’s greatest symbol is a deep lesson; the nature of a square is as unchanging as truth itself. It was always so, it will always be so. So, also, are those principles of mind and character symbolized by the square; the tenets of the builder’s guild expressed by a square. They have always been so, they will always be so. From their very nature they must ring as true on the farthest star as here.
So will Freemasonry always read it, that its gentle message perish not from the earth!
By Lobb40118 on October 4, 2012
SHORT TALK BULLETIN – Vol.XIII September, 1935 No.9
Few references in Freemasonry are less understood than the two brazen pillars in the porch of King Solomon’s Temple. Probably a greater mass of misinformation exists regarding these than any other symbol in the Craft.
Early ritualists confused the mythical pillars of stone, spoken of in almost all the old Charges, or Manuscript Constitutions of the Craft, with the Brazen pillars of the porch – the result is that modern Freemasons have composite pillars, fusing of the ancient and the mythical pillars on which were supposed to be engraved the arts and sciences of the time before the flood, and those which Hiram Abif erected – undoubtedly with Egyptian influences and memories of Egyptian Temples to guide him – before the great house of the Lord which Solomon built.
The fascinating, if wholly legendary, history of the Craft, repeated with variations in the majority of the old manuscript rolls, beginning with the Regius of 1390, is older than any Freemasonry we know in practice. The story varies from manuscript to manuscript, but in its essentials is much the same – it was evidently a tradition as strong in its day as is our legend of Hiram. To quote but a few line bearing on the pillars, consider these words from the York Manuscript No. 1, written about A.D. 1600:
“Before Noah flood there was a man called Lamech as is written in the Scriptures in ye Chatr of Genesis And this Lamech had two wives ye one named Adah by whome he had two sons ye one named Jabell ye other named Jubell And his other wife was called Zillah by whome he had one son named Tubelcaine & one Daughter named Naamah & these four children founded ye beginnings of all ye Sciences in ye world viz Jabell ye oldest Sone found out ye Science of Geomatre he was a keepr of flocks and sheep Lands in the Fields as it is noted in ye Chaptr before sd And his bother Jubell found ye Science of Musicke Song of the Tongue harpe & organ And ye third brother Tuball Caine found ye Science called Smith Craft of Gold Silvr Iron Coppr & Steele & ye daughter found ye ara of Weaving And these persons knowing right well yt God would take vengencance for sinne either by fire or water wherefore they writt their severall Sciences yt they had found in two pillars of stone yt might be found aftr Noah his Flood And ye one stonbe would not burn wth fire & ye othr called Lternes because it would not dround wth wtr etc.”
The word here spelled “Lternes” is rendered on other old Constitutions as “laterns,” usually translated “brick.” But marble does not resist fire; brick – especially early unscientifically vitrified brick – does not resist water. If the word be considered a perversion of “latten,” which means brass or bronze, then the ancient legendary pillars are made of metal and marble, a more sensible idea, since metal would resist fire, and the marble, water. In Tyre was the great Temple to Herakles with two pillars, one of gold, the other of smaragdus (polished green marble). Other Tyrian Temples to Melkarth had two metal pillars or two monoliths. Modern Masonry has hollow pillars to serve as safe repositories for the “archives of Masonry” and to preserve them from flood and fire, in spite of the fact that sacred history says nothing of Masonry, or the reason for the pillars being hollow. It is reasonable to suppose that the ancient Masonic tradition of Lamech’s children and their pillars was confused, as knowledge of the Bible became more common after the invention of printing, with other “brazen pillars” of an ancient day, and finally with those of Solomon’s Temple. How high were the pillars? A question which has agitated American Freemasonry – largely without reason – for many years! A majority of American rituals state that they were thirty-five cubits in heights. A minority hold to eighteen.. One compromises on thirty. A few do not give the height at all.
Mackey (Revised Encyclopedia of Freemasonry) says:
“Immediately within the porch of the Temple, and on each side of the door, were placed two hollow brazen pillars. The height of each was twenty-seven feet, and the diameter about six feet, and the thickness of the brass three inches. Above the pillar and covering its upper part to the depth of nine inches, was an oval body or chapiter seven feet and a half in height. Springing out of from the pillar at the junction of the chapiter with it, was a row of lotus petals, which first spreading around the chapiter, afterwards gently curved downward toward the pillar, something like the acanthus leaves on the capital of a Corinthian column. About two fifths of the distance from the bottom of the chapiter, or just below its most bulging part, a tissue of network was carved, which extended over its whole upper surface. To the bottom of this network was suspended a series of fringes, and on these again were carved two rows of pomegranates, one hundred being in each row.”
This description, it seemed to Dr. Mackey, is the only one that can be reconciled with the various passages which relate to these pillars in the Books of Kings, Chronicles, and Josephus, to give a correct conception of the architecture of these symbols. In 1904 Brother John W. Barry, of Iowa, later to become Grand Master, rendered an exhaustive report to his Grand Lodge on the height of the pillars, proving anew the belief, practically accepted by Biblical students, the that “thirty-five” dimension is that of both pillars together, the actual height of each being eighteen cubits. The confusion arises in the two accounts in Chronicles and Kings. Various explanations have been advanced as to the discrepancy between thirty-five as the height of each. The missing cubit is explained on the theory that while actually each pillar from root to summit was eighteen cubits, only seventeen and one-half showed. The rest being hidden in chapiter and base.
This explanation apparently began with the Genevan Bible (Breeches Bible) in which is a marginal note stating of the pillars “every one was eighteen cubits long, but halfe cubite could not be feene, for it was hid in the roundeneffe of the chapiter, and therefore he giueth to every one 17 and a halfe.”
To know the “actual” size of the pillars, it is necessary to know the length of a cubit. And here is room for speculation and many authorities! The Abingdon Bible Commentaries says: “The common cubit, equal to about 18 inches, the longer Royal cubit to about 20-½ inches.” John Wesley Kelchner, whose restorations of King Solomon’s Temple are to be found in Masonic Bibles, considers the cubit to bee equal to two feet. The Standard Dictionary gives the cubit as the measure of length determined by the average arm from elbow to middle finger tip. The Britannica considers that the Temple cubit must have been in excess if 25 inches, Canon J.W. Horsley, Past Grand Chaplain, England, who has studied and written much upon the pillars, give a table of sizes in which the cubit is but 14 2/5 inches.
Many rituals set forth the fact that Hiram cast the pillars on the plains of the Jordan, in the clay ground between Succoth and Zarthan, or Zeredetha. Both I Kings and II Chronicles are authority for the statement. But if there ever existed a “clay ground” in the location specified, it has disappeared and left no trace. Explorations (Lynch in 1847, Ridegway in 1874 not only found no clay ground, but no trace of smelters, furnaces, or other means of melting and casting brass. The point is of little importance – the pillars and the Temple vessels were cast, somewhere. But a failure of fact in a statement so absolute may be an indication the other I Kings and II Chronicles’ statements about the pillars were also inaccurate as to facts – “vide” the height statements.
The “globes celestial and terrestrial” which usually surmount American Lodge room pillars are wholly modern inventions, without basis in Scriptural fact. Somewhere, at some time, some ritual maker confused the spherical form of the chapiter with an additional an additional sphere. Desiring to account for it, he drew a map of the world on one and a map of the heavens on the other! But in the Kings and Chronicles accounts and in Josephus, there are no mentions of celestial and terrestrial globes.
All this is more interesting than important. The symbolical meaning of the pillars is the vital matter to Freemasons. In the eyes of critical scholarship, the ancient meaning was of the might and majesty of Deity. From the dawn of religion the pillar, monolith or built up, has played an important part of the worship of the Unseen. From the huge boulders of Stonehenge, among which the Druids are supposed to have performed their rites, through East Indian temples, to the religion of ancient Egypt, scholars trace the use of pillars as an essential part of the religious worship; indeed, in Egypt the obelisk stood for the very presence of the Sun God himself.
The ancient believed the earth to be flat and that it was supported by two Pillars of God, placed at the western entrance of the world as then known. These are now called Gibraltar, on one side of the strait and Cueta on the other.
Some writers have suggested that the pillars represent the masculine and feminine elements in nature; others, that they stand for authority of Church and State, because on stated occasions the high priest stood before one pillar and the King before the other. Some students think that they allude to the two legendary pillars of Enoch, upon which, tradition informs us, all the wisdom of the ancient world was inscribed in order to preserve it from inundations and conflagrations. William Preston supposed that, by them, Solomon had reference to the pillars of cloud and fire which guided the Children of Israel out of the bondage and into the promise land. One authority says a literal translation of their names is: “In thee is strength,” and, “It shall be established,” and by a natural transposition mat thus be expressed: “Oh Lord, Thou art almighty and Thy Power is established from everlasting to everlasting.”
Quoting Abingdon again:
“The fact that each pillar had a particular name further suggests that they were not simply a part of the architectural adornment, but originally bore some analogy to the pillars which, singly or in pairs, formed an important feature of the Semitic sanctuaries. At Melkart’s shrine at Tyre there were, according to Herodotus, two costly obelisks at which Melkart (and probably his wife-consort) was worshiped. Two pillars also stood before the temples in Paphos and in Hierapolis. Ashurbanipal on the occasion of his expedition to Egypt and Ethiopia recounts that part of his spoil included ‘two obelisks high with resplendent plating of fine workmanship . . from the threshold of the gate of the Temple.’ Therefore these pillars at Jerusalem, built, like the Temple itself, by Phoenician workmen, were probably intended to be symbols of the Deity; they were an artistic refinement of the Mezzabah, or stone obelisk which, at many Israelite sanctuaries, still stood beside he altar in much later days. But it does not necessarily follow that Solomon and his subjects so interpreted the significance of these novel and foreign brass objects: for them the Ark in the ‘oracle’ seemed to have symbolized Jehovah.
But it is possible that instead of Jachin (or Jakin,) ‘he (Jehovah) was carved on one pillar by Huram-abi and subsequently altered into his name; and Boaz (i.e., ‘in him is strength’) may be a later substitution for ‘Tammuz,’ whose cult was very prevalent in the Semitic world.”
The Entered Apprentice in the process of being passed to the degree of Fellowcraft “passes between the pillars.” No hint is given that he should pass nearer to one than the other; no suggestion is made that he either may work a greater influence than the other. He merely passes between.
A deep significance is in this very omission. Masons refer to the promise of God unto David; the interested may read Chapter VII of II Samuel, and gather that the establishment promised by the Lord was that of a house, a family, a descent of blood from David unto his children and his children’s children.
Used to blast stumps from fields, dynamite is an aid to the farmer. Used in war it kills and maims. Fire cooks food and makes steam for engines, fire also burns houses and destroys forests. But it is not the power but the use of power which is good or bad. The truth applies to any power; spiritual, legal, monarchical, political or personal. Power is without either virtue or vice; the user may use it well or ill, as he pleases.
Freemasonry passes the brother in the process of becoming a Fellowcraft between the pillar of strength – power; and the pillar of establishment – choice or control. He is a man now and no minor or infant. He has grown up Masonically. Before him are spread the two great essentials to all success, all greatness, and all happiness. Like any other power – temporal or physical, religious or spiritual – Freemasonry can be used well or ill. Here is the lesson set before the Fellowcraft; if he, like David, would have his kingdom of Masonic manhood established in strength he must pass between the pillars with understanding that power without control is useless, and control without power, futile. Each is a compliment of the other; in the passage between the pillars the Fellowcraft not only has his feet set upon the Winding Stairs but is given – so he has eyes to see and ears to hear – secret instructions as to how he shall climb those stairs that he may, indeed, reach the Middle Chamber. He is to climb by strength, but directed by wisdom; he is to progress by power, but guided by control, he must rise by the might that is in him, but arrive by the wisdom of his heart.
So considered, the inaccuracies and misstatements of ritual regarding the pillars become relatively unimportant; whether eighteen of thirty-five cubits high, whether cast in one place or another, whether or not surmounted in Solomon’s day with globes terrestrial and celestial, matter little. The lesson is there, the meaning of the symbol to be read. The initiate of old saw in the obelisk the very spirit of the God he worshiped. The modern Masonic initiate may see in the two pillars the mans by which he may travel a little further, a little higher towards the secret Middle Chamber of life, in which dwells the Unseen Presence.
Posted in Masonic Education | Tagged boaz, esoteric freemasonry, Freemason, Freemasonry, indiana freemasons, Indianapolis Freemason, jachin, mason, Masonic, masonic education, masonry, Tubelcaine, two pillars | Leave a response
By Lobb40118 on September 27, 2012
THE LEGEND OF THE LOST WORD
SHORT TALK BULLETIN – Vol.VI May, 1928 No.5
Ancient Craft Masonry attains its climax in the symbolism of the Lost Word, and a quest for its recovery; but in our ritualistic work there is little attempt at explanation.
The observation has been made that language is a growth; every word had to be created by man. Back of every word is some want or necessity of mind or body and the genius to make expression in some sign or sound that we call a word. “Some words are rough and rugged like the skins of wild beasts, other glitter and glisten like satin and gold. Words have been born of hatred and revenge, of love and sacrifice, of hope and fear, of agony and joy. In them mingle the darkness and the dawn. They are the garments of thought , the robes of reason, the shadows of the past, the reflection of the present and the crystallization of human history.”
It has been said that the egocentric instinct in man has made “self-preservation the first law of nature,” that growing out of or alongside of it is the gregarious instinct which has produced social governments and philanthropic enterprises. Deeper than these instincts there is in man a consciousness, however dim, in explicable forces and agencies, and an urge to realize their potency. In the childhood of the race this occasioned the thought of supernatural power in a word.
The word that causes the heavens on high to tremble, The word that makes the world below to quake.
Constitute the first two lines of a Babylonian hymn inscribed upon a clay tablet five thousand years ago, in which the wise preisthood of a great religion sang praises to the might and power of a word. Some Masonic writers have held that A U M, pronounced “oom,” is the oldest omnific name of God in the world; that it came out of India, and that it has also been spelled A O M, but pronounced the same way. Frank C. Higgins has written a book on his name as the “Lost Word,” and claims it is concealed in the terminal letters of the names of the three ruffians. To the best of my knowledge this concealment has not been satisfactorily explained.
In my opinion, Freemasonry is largely indebted to the Hebrews for the legend of The Lost Word. Shakespeare says, “What’s in a name?” The Jews saw in a name “a sign standing for the personality, the achievements, the reputation, the character, the power and the glory of the one who wore it.” Joseph meant “increaser,” Moses meant “drawn out of water,” Israel meant “Prince of God.” At the burning bush the ineffable name of God Almighty was communicated to Moses; so overwhelming was its glory that the people pronounced it in whispers.
The third commandment of the Decalogue, delivered from Mount Sinai, declared, “Thou Shalt not take the name of the Lord, thy God in vain.” The priestly rule contained in Leviticus reads, “He that pronounceth the name of the Lord distinctly shall be put to death.” At last only the high priest was permitted to utter the name, and that but once a year. On the day of atonement, and in the holy of holies, its utterance was accompanied by the beating of cymbals and the blowing of trumpets, so as to completely extinguish the sound of the human voice. Such were “the wrappings of secrecy and sanctity which the Jews threw about the name of God.”
As they used no vowels in writing, all that was ever seen were four consonants, J H V H, the Tetragrammation or four lettered name of God which we call Jehovah. From the letters there was no clue to the pronunciation. No one could understand them any more than we could know that Mr. stands for Mister and Dr. stands for Doctor unless someone told us so.
According to tradition, the great catastrophe of the Babylonian captivity was that, through the death of the high pries without a successor, the name was lost. “At the end of that captivity priests and scribes began a search for the lost name which has continued without avail for two and one-half millenniums.” The four consonants they had, but it is doubtful if anyone has been able to supply the sound of the vowels. It is believed that this four-lettered name of God is the Lost Word of Masonry today.
Like everything else in our science, it is a symbol.
It is the consummation of all Masonic symbolism because it stands for the Divine truth. Brotherly love and relief are but the means to an end; the final design of our Institution is its third principle tenet, the imperial truth. In some aspects truth seems relative, because it is not complete, but only partial. Now we see through a glass darkly, but the ultimates of truth are immutable and eternal, the Fatherhood of God and the immortality of the soul, “Down to this deep foundation Masonry digs for a basis of its Temple and finds an everlasting rock.”
Dr. Joseph Fort Newton says:
“Freemasonry makes no argument, but presents a picture, the oldest, if not the greatest, drama in the world, the better to make men feel those truths which no mortal words can utter. It shows us the tragedy of life in its blackest hour, the forces of evil, cunning, yet stupid, which come up against the soul, tempting it to treachery, a tragedy which, in its simplicity and power, makes the heart ache and stand still. Then out of the thick darkness there rises, like a beautiful white star, that in man which is most akin to God, his love of truth, his devotion to duty, his willingness to go down into the night of death, if only virtue may survive and throb like a pulse of fire in the evening sky.”
“Here is the ultimate and final witness of our Divinity and immortality, the sublime, death-defying moral heroism of the human soul.” Translated into personal terms it is the Apostle Peter at his execution asking to be crucified head downward. It is the Spartan Leonidas at the Pass of Thermopylae, with a handful of men holding back the hordes of Persia and spelling out the salvation of the Greek Republic. It is the Swiss, Arnold von Winkelried, receiving the points of Austrian spears into his own breast and making his dead body a bridge of victory for his countrymen. It is the American, Nathan Hale, grieving that he had but one life to give, but one supreme sacrifice to make at the altar of our National Liberty. It is our operative Grand Master, the Tyrian Builder before the brute forces of death and destruction, surrendering his life but preserving his integrity.
Brother H.L. Haywood says: “The search for a lost word is not a search for a mere vocable of a few letters which one might write down on a piece of paper, it is the search for a truth.” It is a quest for the highest possible life in the spiritual unfoldment of humanity; it is the seeking after the name, the power and the glory of God.
The purpose is the same whether this age-old legend of the quest be woven into a tragic tale like Eugene Sue’s “Wandering Jew,” or thrown about a mystic drama like Maurice Maeterlinck’s “Blue Bird,” or crystallized in an epic poem like James Russell Lowell’s “Vision of Sir Launfal,” whether it be a missing chord of music, the vacancy of a sanctuary, a design left unfinished by the death of the Master Builder, or the Lost Word in Masonry to be recovered through patience, perseverance and time. It always symbolizes a search for something good and beautiful and true.
At times of meditation and introspection there is something vaguely haunting in the Legend of The Lost Word; like the fleeting fragrance of a forest flower experienced in the past, the murmured music of a rippling brook heard in childhood, the purple sheen of twilight on a distant hilltop, or some exquisite dream of infinite love in the long ago; forgotten, but trembling at the doorway of memory.
This quest is the central thought of Henry van Dyke’s “The Other Wise Man,” an inspirational story of beauty and charm, which tells of the days when Augustus Caesar was the master of many Kings and Herod reigned in Jerusalem.
Artaban, the Median, the fourth wise man; studied the constellations and certain prophecies of Zoroaster, Balaam and Daniel. Inspired by the appearance of a star in the sky, he sold his possessions and bought three gems; a sapphire, a ruby and a pearl; to bear as tribute to a new-born King. The other three wise men were to wait for him at the ancient temple of the seven Spheres. Because he tarried in a palm grove outside the walls of Babylon to minister to a Parthian Jew in the ravages of a fever, he did not reach the appointed place in time, and found a note which said, “We have waited past the midnight hour and can delay no longer. We go to find the King. Follow us across the desert.” This meant that Artaban must sell his sapphire to buy camels and provisions for the journey . A ministry of mercy cost him the first jewel.
The third day after the wise men had laid at the feet of a child in a manger their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, Artaban entered Bethlehem, weary but full of hope, bearing his Ruby and his Pearl. The streets were deserted, but from an open door of a low stone cottage he heard a woman’s voice singing softly. He entered and found a young mother hushing her baby to sleep. She told him of the strangers from the east who had appeared and gone, that the man from Nazareth had taken the babe and its mother and fled away to Egypt. She placed food before him, the plain fare of humble peasants. The baby slumbered, as great peace filled the quiet room; but suddenly there came the noise of wild confusion in the street, the shrieking and wailing of women’s voices crying: “The Soldiers of Herod! They are killing our children.”
The mother’s face grew white with terror, she huddled with her child in a dark corner of the room. Artaban’s form filled all the doorway, and looking straight at the Captain he said: “I am alone in this place and am waiting to give this jewel to the prudent Captain who will leave me in peace.” He showed the Ruby glistening like a great drop of blood in the palm of his hand.
The lines of greed tightened hard around the Captain’s lips. He took the Ruby in his fingers and gave the order:
“March on, there is no child here, this house is still.” Artaban turned his face to the East and prayed, “God of Truth, forgive my sin, I have said that which is not to save the life of a child.” The voice of the woman said, very gently, “Because thou hast saved the life of my little one, may the Lord Bless thee and keep thee, lift up the light of His Countenance upon thee and give thee peace.” Thus he parted with his second jewel.
Down in Egypt Artaban found faint traces here and there of the holy family. Though he found none to worship, he found many to help. He fed the hungry, clothed the naked, healed the sick and comforted the captive. His years moved swiftly by; after thirty-three had gone, in his old age an irresistible impulse came upon him to go up again to Jerusalem. He had his Pearl and was looking for the King.
It was the season of the Passover when he reached the city. There was great excitement; multitudes were being swept as by a secret tide toward the Damascus Gate. He joined the throng and inquired the cause of the tumult and where they were going. “We are going,” they answered, “Outside the city walls to a place called Golgotha where Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews, is to be crucified.”
How strangely the words fell on the tired heart of Artaban. At last he was to see the King and he still had his Pearl, in time, perhaps to offer it as ransom. A troop of Macedonian soldiers came down the street dragging a young girl into bondage and slavery for debts of her father who had died. Being of Artaban’s country, she recognized the sign of the Priesthood, the Winged circle of Gold which he wore. Tearing away from the soldiers and throwing herself at his feet, she prayed, “Have pity upon me, save me from a fate that is worse than death.”
Artaban trembled as a conflict entered his soul. It was the old conflict which had come to him in the Palm grove and again in the Stone cottage; the conflict between expectations of faith and the impulses of love. In the darkness of his mind it seemed clear that the inevitable comes from God. He took the Pearl from his bosom and placed it in the slave girl’s hand, saying, “This is thy ransom. It is the last of my jewels which I kept for the King.”
As he spoke the sky darkened, the earth quaked, the houses rocked, a heavy tile shaken from a roof fell and struck the old man on the temple. He lay breathless and pale.
As she bent over him there came a voice through the twilight, small and still, like music sounding from a distance. The old man’s lips began to move; she heard him say, “Not so my Lord, for when I saw I Thee an hungered and fed Thee, or thirsty and gave Thee to drink? Thirty and three years have I sought Thee, but I have never seen Thy face nor ministered to Thee, my King.” Again the maid heard the sweet voice, faintly, as from afar, but now it seemed as though she understood the words. “Verily I say unto thee, inasmuch as thou hast done unto one of the least of these my brethren, thou hast done it unto me.”
At the end of the journey, in the presence of human need, in the expression of human sympathy, in the rendering of human service, he came face to face with his King and discovered his Lost Word. He heard a Divine voice saying, “Inasmuch” and “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
The Lost Word symbolizes the kind of truth that cannot be acquired from reading books, that cannot be obtained by paying so much money and listening to so many college lectures. It symbolizes a truth that must be wrought out through the vicissitudes of life in personal experience.
If the Word stands for the personality, the attributes, the power and the glory of God, we must be satisfied with a substitute, because human life and ages of time are too short for a complete revelation of that high and holy name.
The whole design of Masonic science is a quest for the truth.
“Divine truth is symbolized by the Logos, the Word, the Name.” Through this symbol all the other symbols of Masonry guide a man onward and upward to God.
Over the hills to a valley of endless years, Over roads of woe to a land without a tear, Up from the haunts of men to the place where angels are, This is the march of morality, to a wonderful goal afar.
SO MOTE IT BE