the Ancient Mysteries, the quest for Gnosis or self-discovery was central to the
doctrines and teachings. Across the portico of the Temple at Delphi (dedicated
to the God Apollo and seat of the celebrated Oracle), were the words GNOTHI SEAUTON, meaning “Know Thyself.”
journey of Freemasonry is the ongoing search for Light. Underlying all of our
rituals, symbols, and teachings is this one essential element. The ongoing
journey takes many forms to as many different people, but this journey for Light
is arguably one of self-discovery, a search for Gnosis.
systems of meditation and mysticism have developed across the world to address
this eternal search for Light, to answer the great questions of existence.
Whatever the origins of Freemasonry, it is clear that within our rituals is
contained a remarkably vast ark of the worlds philosophies, mysteries, and
systems of self-discovery. The rituals contain keys to the Royal Art, which if
applied in earnest may help to attain the common goal of further Light.
of the techniques for mining the depths of symbolism in our rituals is that of
applying the doctrines of the literal Kabbalah in an examination of some of the
key words and symbols presented in the rituals.
many ancient languages, numbers were represented by letters of the alphabet.
Mystics concluded that the numerical value of words could be of significance,
particularly when two or more seemingly unrelated words had an identical
numerical value. The literal Kabbalah is a set of techniques that meditatively
explore the relationships between letters of
ancient alphabets, such as Hebrew, Greek and Latin, and their numerical
S.L. MacGregor Mather’s introduction to his 1888 translation of Kabbalah Unveiled (Knorr von Rosenroth, 1684) one provenance of
these techniques is given:
Kabbalah was first taught by God himself to a select company of angels, who
formed a theosophic school in Paradise. After the Fall the angels most
graciously communicated this heavenly doctrine to the disobedient child of earth,
to furnish the protoplasts with the means of returning to their pristine
nobility and felicity. From Adam it passed over to Noah, and then to Abraham,
the friend of God, who emigrated with it to Egypt, where the patriarch allowed a
portion of this mysterious doctrine to ooze out. It was in this way that the
Egyptians obtained some knowledge of it, and the other Eastern nations could
introduce it into their philosophical systems. Moses, who was learned in all the
wisdom of Egypt, was first initiated into the Qabalah in the land of his birth,
but became most proficient in it during his wanderings in the wilderness, when
he not only devoted to it the leisure hours of the whole forty years, but
received lessons in it from one of the angels. By the aid of this mysterious
science the law-giver was enabled to solve the difficulties which arose during
his management of the Israelites, in spite of the pilgrimages, wars, and
frequent miseries of the nation. He covertly laid down the principles of this
secret doctrine in the first four books of the Pentateuch, but withheld them
from Deuteronomy. Moses also initiated the seventy elders into the secrets of
this doctrine, and they again transmitted them from hand to hand. Of all who
formed the unbroken line of tradition, David and Solomon were the most deeply
initiated into the Kabbalah. No one, however, dared to write it down, till
Schimeon Ben Jochai, who lived at the time of the destruction of the second
temple . . . . . After his death, his son, Rabbi Eleazar, and his secretary,
Rabbi Abba, as well as his disciples, collated Rabbi Simon Ben Jochai's
treatises, and out of these composed the celebrated work called ZHR, Zohar,
splendour, which is the grand storehouse of Kabbalism."
literal Kabbalah consists of three techniques: Gematria (numerical value of
words and their relationship); Notariqon, in which the individual letters of a
word are taken as the initials of another word (or the reverse – a sentence
may be reduced to a word); and Temurah, or permutation of letters according to
of these techniques may yield rich results when applied to the rituals and
symbols of Freemasonry. Albert Pike made great use of gematria and isopsephy in
his many examinations of the words of the degrees of the Ancient & Accepted
Scottish Rite. In Morals & Dogma
Pike refers to Kabbalah as the “key of the occult sciences.”
A CONCEALED KEY
An example of Kabbalistic insight may be applied to the celebrated
insignia in Chapters of Royal Arch Freemasonry -- the Triple Tau. The Ritual
gives several mottos which seem to allude to a concealed treasure or hidden
Hierosolyma (“The Temple of
ad Thesaurum (“A key to a
ubi res pretiosa deponitur (“A place
where a precious thing is concealed”)
ipsa pretiosa (“The precious
There continues to be much speculation about this “treasure” and
connections with the Knight Templar and mystic Rosicrucians. Perhaps these
riches are much closer than we think, and of a decidedly different nature.
Kenneth Mackenzie, in his Royal Masonic Cyclopaedia, describes the Triple Tau:
the Tau was a mystical sign, not at all like the square letter Hebrew, but more
cruciform, and almost identical with the ankh of the Egyptians, otherwise known
as the Crux ansata. It was a mark in use among many ancient nations, and not
peculiar to the Jews; and it is found among the Hindus, and these last placed it
on the foreheads of their disciples. It was a symbol of salvation and
consecration, and as such has been adopted as a Masonic symbol in the Royal Arch
and in some other degrees of high Masonry.
Albert Pike, writing from his office as Grand Commander of the Supreme Council
of the Ancient & Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry in his monumental
tome Morals & Dogma, further adds:
triple Tau, in the center of a circle and a triangle, typifies the Sacred Name;
and represents the Sacred Triad, the Creating, Preserving, and Destroying Powers;
as well as the three great lights of Masonry. If to the Masonic point within a
Circle, and the two parallel lines, we add the single Tau Cross, we have the
Ancient Egyptian Triple Tau.
column in the form of a cross, with a circle over it, was used by the Egyptians
to measure the increaswe of the inundations of the Nile. The Tau and Triple Tau
are found in many Ancient Alphabets.
the Tau or the Triple Tau may be connected, within two circles, the double cube,
or perfection; or the perfect ashlar.
Crux Ansata is found on the sculptures of Khorsabad; on the ivories
from Nimroud, of the same age, carried by an Assyrian Monarch; and on cylinders
of the later Assyrian period.
the single Tau represents the one God, so, no doubt, the Triple Tau, the origin
of which cannot be traced, was meant to represent the Trinity of his attributes,
the three Masonic pillars, Wisdom, Strength, and Harmony.
The One God alluded to above is further described in Exodus 3:13 – 15:
Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall
say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say
to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them?
God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the
children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.
God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel,
the LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God
of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my
memorial unto all generations.
considerations of the nature of this hidden treasure aside, there is concealed
Kabbalistically the very Triple Tau itself within these passages of the Bible.
Hebrew name of the Great Architect of the Universe
that is translated as “I Am That
I Am” is אהיה
Atbash cipher of Hebrew notariqon is a
simple substitution cipher that takes the Hebrew alphabet and splits it in half
and reverses it, substituting the corresponding letters; א
transmutes to ת,
changes to ש,
and so on; essentially reversing the entire alphabet.
the Atbash cipher to this Name of the Highest God, the three initial א’s
of the phrase are transformed into three ת’s, thus revealing the Triple Tau.[ii]
the application of Kabbalistic inquiry, this symbol may thus be seen as a
representation of the name of the Most High, showing that the true
hidden treasure of the Freemasonry is not necessarily buried underneath the
Temple of Solomon (or Rosslyn Chapel!), but is concealed in the hidden chambers
of our hearts.
lesson of the Royal Arch degree demonstrates another application of gematria
which may unlock mysteries pertaining to the central doctine of the ancient
mysteries which is encoded in Freemasonry, the idea of Light in Extension.
passage from Psalm 118:22 reads:
stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.”
Hebrew, the phrase “the Stone which the Builders refused” is Ehben Masu
Ha-Bonaim (ABN MASV H BVNIM). An interesting connection to Alchemy occurs here,
in that the reference to a rejected stone recalls the idea of the Philosopher’s
Stone, made up of materials that are commonly rejected or abhorred, but praised
as the roots of philosophical gold by the alchemists. The root of the Hebrew masu
means “to despise, reject, refuse.” Using the techniques of gemaria, the
numeration of the entire phrase is 273.
Hebrew words which have this same numerical value:
ABIV, Khurum Abiv – “Hiram Abiff”
GNVZ, Aur Ganuz, -- “hidden
then, one may intuit a connection between the Widow’s Son, the Stone which the
Builders refused, and the concept of Hidden or Concealed Light. The cornerstone
takes on a new, profound meaning with these added levels of symbolism encoded
Substitute for the Ancient Master’s Word may be a notariqon of this phrase:
the word becomes indicative of the Light of Masonry in a very direct sense,
referring to Hiram Abiff, the Cornerstone of the Temple, the Hidden Light. The
symbols build upon one another, each taking one deeper into the heart of the
to the Greek language, there are two words of particular relevance that also
enumerate to 273:
“immortality.” Perhaps a further reference to the doctrine of the Third
Kleis, “the key.”
Key… Hiram Abiff… The Stone which the Builders Refused… The Cornerstone…
Immortality… Hidden Light… all encoded into
the substitute for the Word of a Master Mason, and the symbolism of the Sublime
Degree of Masonry.
the original provenance and impetus of Freemasonry, it seems clear that encoded
within the rituals is a profound doctrine of spiritual illumination or Gnosis.
With the application of tools such as gematria, isopsophy, temurah and notariqon,
a wealth of otherwise hidden wisdom begins to reveal itself. Applying the lamp
of focused consciousness on these symbols, the treasure chest opens.
may be thought of as living, dynamic centers of energy. By focusing on them and
taking them into deep contemplation, this energy is unlocked from within,
revealing the Royal Art as a series of signposts in consciousness. By following
these signs into meditation, we may eventually come away with a further,
profounder understanding of ourselves and our position in the universe.
James Bible, various editions.
Henry Cornelius. Three Books of Occult
Philosophy (ed. Donald Tyson). Lllewellyn, 2000.
Kieren. The Greek Qabalah: Alphabetic
Mysticism and Numerology in the Ancient World. Weiser, 1999.
Paul Foster. The True and Invisible Rosicrucian Order. Weiser, 1985.
Aleister. The Equinox, Volume I number
VIII. Weiser, 1992.
Masonic Cyclopaedia. Aquarian Press, 1987.
Albert. An Encyclopaedia of Freemasonry and Its Kindred Sciences. (New &
Revised, 2 vols). Masonic History Company, 1921.
S.L. MacGregor. The Kabbalah Unveiled.
& Dogma, Supreme Council of the 33rd
Degree AASR, 1950.
William. The Canon: An Exposition of the Pagan Mystery Perpetuated in the Cabala
as the Rule of all the Art. Weiser Books, 1999.
A.E. The Holy Kabbalah. Citadel Press, 1995.