Part 4 out of 6
The Egyptians also selected the _erica_ 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
plant, in memory of its having pointed out the spot where the
_mangled remains_ of Osiris were concealed.
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. Clavel 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.
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 infernal regions--a 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 decree 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
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
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 board.
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
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,
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; 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 derived.
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 temple.
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 are different.
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 Saviour's meaning.
"Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and
wilt thou rear it up in three days?
"But he spake of the temple of his body." 
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. 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
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."  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
"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."  And subsequently he
addresses the candidate who has received the Master's degree in the
"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.
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 religious elements.
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 Berlin:--
"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
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 work." 
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
Our own country has produced many students of Masonic symbolism, who have
thoroughly grasped this noble thought, and treated it with eloquence and
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.
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 Solomon.
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
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
The Stone of Foundation.
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
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 Foundation.
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 stones.
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 ability.
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 symbols.
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."  The Hebrew Talmudists, who
thought as much of this stone, and had as many legends concerning it as
the masonic Talmudists, called it _eben shatijah_ 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 patriarch,--
"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
With this understanding of their meaning, let us proceed to a collation of
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 wonderful stone:--
"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_;"  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
"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 Holies." 
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
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
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 Clarke 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.
But this Scottish tradition would take the Stone of Foundation away from
all its masonic connections, and therefore it is rejected as a masonic
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 each vault.
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 lowest arch.
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
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 narrative--
"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
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, "the Rabbins call the
Stone of Foundation, and give us a great deal of trash about it."
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 part.
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 additional circumstances.
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 symbolism depends.
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
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.
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.
Arnobius 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 pilgrims.
The Druids, it is well known, had no other images of their gods but
cubical, or sometimes columnar, stones, of which Toland gives several
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."  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.
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 Foundation."
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."  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
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
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
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
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
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, 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 particular
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
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
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 Word_.
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 of sin."
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 religions.
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 forefathers."
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 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 part.
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 said.
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
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
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 in Palestine.
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 initiation.
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 Freemasonry.
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 _Zoroaster_.
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 generally used.
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 Universe."
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
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
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 masonic symbolism.
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 Composite.
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,--
"Ingenuas didicisse fideliter artes
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 human learning.
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 Freemasonry.
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 the initiate.
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 masonic institution.
ASPIRANT. One who aspires to or seeks after the truth. The title given to
the candidate in the ancient Mysteries.
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
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 Intrusting.
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 all things."
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
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
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 sun.
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
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
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 symbolic character.
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.
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.
CHRISTIANIZATION OF 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 priesthood.
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
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.