The great symbols, symbolism, and allegories of our fraternity are often misunderstood by many Masons and non-Masons alike.
Albert Pike explained it best when he said that the symbols of the blue
lodge deliberately revealed little of the mysteries of freemasonry to the
initiate in the event that he at some future point might prove unworthy to
discover the true light or that he might even profane the unveiled mysteries.
In revealing only the base truths of the symbols, the system of
Freemasonry kept its mysteries so that only the adepts and serious students of
our philosophy might come to know the real truths.
In recent years even we as Freemasons have been guilty of debasing our
own ritual by continuing to cut portions of it, or as many of our steady and
reliable brethren have done, memorized to the letter the ritual and spouted it
at command. How many of us actually
realize what has been cut out? How many of us that can recite perfectly all
three of the blue lodge degrees actually know what they mean and what they
represent? In lodges around the
world today the degrees have completely lost their philosophical meaning and
only exist as a means to a political end. In
the United States according to Pike since the 1800's the blue degree's teach
only morality, refuse to intermeddle with questions political or religious, and
require only a belief in God, and somewhat of the immortality of the soul.
We declare the Holy Bible to be the rule and guide of our conduct, and
the inspired word of God, and were it not evaded in practice by the admission of
the Hebrews, it would make American Masonry a strictly Christian organization.
I would like in this short article to attempt with the aid of Albert Pike
to explain a few key elements of our philosophy which are so misunderstood and
actually espouse the truth of why we exist as an organization.
The allegory or legend of Hiram Abiff has for many years been interpreted
in numerous ways. There are
probably as many interpretations as there are blades of grass.
Pike's interpretation has a tendency to hold more water as we look at the
history of England and the early history of our great nation. In the Legenda of the 4th-14th degrees Pike explains the
symbolism of the mode in which Hiram was murdered. In the degree, the Grand Master Hiram Abiff is met at the
three gates by three distinct persons. Hiram's
name in itself is symbolic and contains a hidden meaning.
In the Hebrew translation the name actually translates Khirm or Khurm.
Hebrew does not contain any vowels so the second syllable is uncertain.
The name meant 'devoted, consecrated,' devoted to the sacrifice as the
victim. Also, the first part of his
name Khi means 'life, living, alive, the living God;' and 'ram' meant 'was, or
shall, be raised, elevated.' Thus we have ' the living God shall be elevated.'
Now how many of us actually knew that before today?
As we get into the legend the candidate representing Hiram is led to the
station of the Junior Warden representing the South Gate, here he is struck with
the Rule or the Twenty-Four inch Gauge on the throat.
In Greek the Rule whether an implement, rule of conduct or law is a
Canon. The interpretation here leads us to the fact the Law of the
Church of Rome, which came from many sources has always been called the
"The Canon Law." The rule
in this sense is an apt metaphor or symbol for the church.
This can be connected with Christ in the sense that the Jews wanted to
silence Christ and thus they had him crucified out of exasperation for his
denunciation of their hypocrisy and vices.
In our symbolic sense, Hiram Abiff is struck on the throat where the
capability of speech is imbedded by the rule representative of the Church.
The Church wishes to silence those who would speak out against its dogma
or those who would dare think and reason on another plane that is inconsistent
with its doctrine. As we move
through the ceremony Hiram Abiff represented by the candidate is led to the
Senior Warden's station representative of the West Gate.
Here the candidate is struck across the chest with the square.
The symbolism of the square is interpreted as an object whose arms join
in a rigid unbending unity of the right angle.
This was an apt symbol of the union of all civil and religious power at
differing times in history. This
union has almost always resulted in a harsh unrelenting despotism that subjects
its people or subjects to arbitrary will called 'law'.
This law is many times executed ruthlessly and without pity.
Man's relationship with his God is an affair of the heart as are his
hopes, dreams, and aspirations. This
is why the candidate is struck by the square in the chest.
The symbolic portrayal of Despotism fueled by religious fanaticism
crushing the seat of man's affections; the heart.
Reason and intellect throughout the ages have always been powerless
against despotism and or an organized anarchy.
The masses often are led astray by despotic regimes attempts to hold them
at bay with superstition. It is
with this (fanatical belief in superstition) that masses are turned into a
frenzied riot or mass of narrow one-way minds.
Superstition hates reason and more often than not, the common people
accept the first explanation of anything that comes along as the most reasonable
before the intellects have had time to weed out the lies and distribute the
truth. The masses fueled by the
despots turn their anger and hate toward the philosophers and thinkers. The
despots sit in judgment with superstitious ideas and use their brute force to
crush any other belief system based on reason by ruling it as heresy or treason.
Thus we have at the station of the Worshipful Master representative of
the East Gate, a mallet, representative of this brute force crushing the
skull of Hiram , the symbolic seat of wisdom and intellect manifested in a
basic explanation of being assassinated to gain the True word of a Master Mason
is also reasonable as it ties into all of the above.
We as Freemasons and Masters of the Royal Secret must be on guard to
always get at the truth of our teachings and of our philosophies. Whenever an explanation comes along don't accept it at face
value as there is almost always another explanation.
This is discussed briefly at the end of this article.
days before Christianity and of early Judaism there existed men known as Mystics
or Magi. These men studied a system
of symbolism and interpretation which supplemented their worship.
They studied the Kabalah (also known under many different spellings.)
In my study it seems that maybe the baby was thrown out with the bath
water when this system fell out of vogue. Within
the Scriptures of the Holy Bible it has been said for years that there are
hidden meanings. I have used this
system in a novice sort of way and have read books with scripture interpreted
that have shown me that there is something to this.
For example and I leave this to you to verify as the reader on your own;
the pillars of Kings Solomon's Temple as described in 1st Kings, and the whole
book of Revelations. There is
something more than meets the eye with even a modest amount of research and
study. I believe that part of our
hidden mysteries and secrets can be found within.
I challenge each of you to continue on your path to the true light of
Credit: Albert Pike’s
Legenda 4-14th Degree was used and cited extensively in the
preparation of this paper.
Capt. Mark Watson belongs to Mountain Star Lodge #197 in Sevierville,
Tn, and is a member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Knoxville.
He was raised to Master Mason in 1996.
Mark's military career started after graduation from high school in 1987
with a tour in the U.S. Marine Corps and combat service during Operations Desert
Shield/Storm. He attended the University of Tennessee and graduated in 1996
with a Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies.
He is an ordained minister and is currently pursuing his Master of
Divinity and continues to serve his country as an Army officer.
He is married to the former Lynn Tarbell of Andersonville, Tennessee and
they have 4 children.
We have received and decided to publish a comment by Bro.Ruben Gurevich, 32, MPS.
I am writing to you regarding the article by Bro Mark C. Watson, 32, MPS,
"Despotism, Religious Fanaticism, and the Grand Master Hiram Abiff” which
presently appears in the Pietre-Stones Review of Freemasonry.
The article’s opening sentence was clearly a call to attention, so I continued
reading it with great interest. Unfortunately, I was disappointed to realize
that the author had fallen prey to the same inclination he so vehemently
denounced in others, i. e. to mistake opinion for fact. In addition, he himself
made a number of important factual errors. Being a firm believer in the
principles of Freemasonry, as well as the beneficiary of living in a free and
open society, I would have been happy to leave Bro Watson to his opinions,
except that – again, both as a Mason and as a citizen – when I see what,
after proper research, I consider to be excessive and, at times, even dangerous
error, I am compelled to point it out. Of course, Bro Watson has the same right,
so I look forward to a good dialogue, if he chooses to engage in one.
Towards the end of the second paragraph of his article, Bro Watson writes: “We
declare the Holy Bible to be the rule and guide of our conduct, and the inspired
word of God, and were it not evaded in practice by the admission of the Hebrews,
it would make American Masonry a strictly Christian organization.”
I beg your pardon?
A. To what Holy Bible is Bro Watson referring to? Last time I checked, the Holy
Bible included both the Old and the New Testaments.
B. Who are the Hebrews? To my knowledge, the religion based on the Old Testament
is Judaism, and the people who follow it are called Jews. Why is he so reluctant
to call them so? I believe the answer may be found in one of his later
statements; see below.
C. I am a member of a Masonic Lodge under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of
the State of New York. As such, I have participated in initiations and raisings
where the Holy Book used was the Koran. This is in strict adherence to the
principles of Freemasonry, which establishes that, one of the prerequisites for
a man to become a Mason, is his belief in a Supreme Being, regardless of the way
in which he chooses to approach Him.
In the fourth paragraph, referring to the name Hiram, Bro Watson states: “In
the Hebrew translation the name actually translates Khirm or Khurm…” and,
“The name meant ‘devoted, consecrated,’ devoted to the sacrifice as the
victim. Also, the first part of his name Khi means ‘life, living, alive, the
living God;’ and ‘ram’ meant ‘was, or shall, be raised, elevated.’
Thus we have ‘the living God shall be elevated.’ Now how many of us actually
knew that before today?”
I venture to say, not too many. In Hebrew, Hiram is spelled ם ך
י ח (Hebrew is written right to left; for some reason, my browser is
reversing the letter order!) and the most common literal transliteration of the
name is “Chyram.” Strong’s concordance (# 04238) translates the name as
“Noble.” Still, if we divide ם ך י ח in two, we can,
indeed, come up with:
A. י ח (chay) which Strong (# 02416) translates as: adj. 1) living,
alive; a) green (of vegetation); b) flowing, fresh (of water) c. lively, active
(of man); d) reviving (of the springtime) n m. 2) relatives; 3) life (abstract
emphatic) a) life; b) sustenance, maintenance n f ; 4) living thing, animal; a)
animal; b) life; c) appetite; d) revival, renewal; 5) community ; and
B. ם ך (ram) which, again, Strong (# 07410) translates as:
“high,” or “exalted.” What is Bro Watson’s source for translating yx
(chay) into “the living God”? The most common translation of “chay” is
“life” (as in the common Hebrew toast םייהל
(again the letters are reversed!) ‘l’chaym’ “to life.”)
So, a more likely translation of “Chay–ram” is “Exalted Life.” Still,
if Bro Watson can cite a reliable source, I’d be happy to accept “the living
God shall be elevated” as another possible translation for
In the article’s sixth paragraph, we are told that: “… The symbolism of
the square is interpreted as an object whose arms join in a rigid unbending
unity of the right angle. This was an apt symbol of the union of all civil and
religious power at different times in history.”
There is nothing symbolic about the square being an object whose arms join in a
rigid unbending unity of the right angle. By definition, that is precisely what
the square is. On the other hand, where is the documentation to justify that the
square symbolizes “the union of, etc., etc.?”
The eighth and ninth paragraphs present Bro Watson’s interpretation (although
not stated as such) about the symbolism of Hiram Abiff’s final injury, the
mallet blow that crushed the Master’s skull. According to him, this represents
“The despots (who) sit in judgment with superstitious ideas and use their
brute force to crush any other belief system based on reason by ruling it as
heresy or treason.” Interesting but, again, where is the documentation to
justify this bizarre interpretation?
I will jump to the article’s last paragraph, where Bro Watson mentions the
Kabala. Regardless of accepted lore, the Kabala was not studied “In the days
before Christianity and of early Judaism…” In spite of a few earlier
mystical writings, the Kabala is a product of medieval Spain and Southern
France. For a serious study of the Kabala, its origins, development, and
subsequent influence on modern thinking, I suggest that Bro Watson consult the
many excellent works written by Gershom Scholem, generally recognized as the
most important Kabala scholar of the 20th century.
After carefully reading and rereading his article, it is my opinion that the
various symbolic meanings found by Bro Watson in the allegory of Hiram Abiff
are, regretfully, nothing more than flights of fancy, without the slightest
shred of evidence having been presented to defend or justify his whimsical
If that would be all, Bro Watson would not be any more (or less) guilty than the
many authors he alludes to when – in one of the few statements in his article
with which I have no quarrel – he states: “There are probably as many
interpretations as there are blades of grass” (paragraph 4.) Unfortunately, at
the end of paragraph 4, he leaves the merely opinionated and unsubstantiated,
and takes us (I am not afraid to call here the proverbial spade by its proper
name) into the realm of the bigoted.
He writes: “In Greek the Rule whether an implement, rule of conduct or law is
a Canon.” I assume he means: “In Greek, the Rule – whether an implement,
rule of conduct or law – is a Canon.” Then, he continues: “The
interpretation here leads us to the fact the Law of the Church of Rome, which
came from many sources has always been called “The Cannon Law.” The rule in
this sense is an apt metaphor or symbol for the church.”
To my knowledge, the twenty-four inch gage being a metaphor for the Catholic
Church is not stated in any Masonic ritual, past or present. This is, once
again, just Bro Watson’s personal interpretation, and should have been stated
The next lines are even more disturbing: “This can be connected with Christ in
the sense that the Jews wanted to silence Christ and thus had him crucified out
of exasperation for his denunciation of their hypocrisy and vices.”
Any human being is free to believe that the words written in any given book –
be them of a philosophical, religious, literary, or scientific nature – are
Divinely inspired. In addition, even if those words are presented without any
tangible proof, anyone can choose to believe that they are literal truth. In the
case of religion, when words are thus enshrined, they become part of the Dogma,
the theological foundation of whatever religion has been based on those words.
For obvious good reason, a very wise and basic Masonic practice forbids
theological discussions in the lodge. In my opinion, when writing to a Masonic
publication, a Mason would be better served by following the same practice. At a
minimum, he should be very careful not to indulge in unnecessary hurt and
provocation by stating as historically proven facts what are, in fact, conscious
or subconscious restatements of theological tenets.
As stated in The King James Study Bible (Liberty University, 1988), p. 1401,
par. 1: “The four Gospels present a fourfold view of the life of Christ. With
the exception of scant references by Tacitus and Josephus, our entire knowledge
of the life of Jesus comes from these gospel accounts.”
Bro Watson’s assertion that “(the Jews) had him (Jesus) crucified” is
based on various passages of the Gospels, primarily Matthew 27:22 and 25, Mark
15:15, Luke 23:21 and 23, as well as John 19:6, 7, and 15. As far as theology is
concerned, that would be enough – and for fundamentalist Christians that is
so. As a person respectful of all people’s beliefs, I would never enter into a
discussion or argument with anyone regarding the historical validity of those
statements. But, when they are presented as fact in an article which, by
implication, denounces anyone who “…whishes to silence those who would speak
out against (the Church) dogma or those who would dare think and reason on
another plane that is inconsistent with its doctrine” (paragraph 5 of Bro
Watson’s article) I am compelled to call attention to a few proven historical
A) Crucifixion was the Roman punishment for crimes against the state, primarily
treason. The Jewish penalty for heresy was stoning.
B) The just and gentle Pilate of the Gospels is not consistent with historical
truth. Everything we know about him from independent sources tell us he was a
tyrannical and bloodthirsty individual, who would do whatever was necessary to
maintain his own precarious position as Roman Procurator of Judea, Samaria and
C) Jesus was neither the first nor the last Jew to be proclaimed as the
“Messiah” by at least some of his people. Unlike the interpretation of a
later time, the Hebrew חישם (letter order is reversed!)
“Mashiyach” implies, both, a spiritual and a political dimension. ( See
Strong’s # 04899; 1) anointed, anointed one; a) of the Messiah, Messianic
prince; b) of the king of Israel; c) of the high priest of Israel; d) of Cyrus;
e) of the patriarchs as anointed kings.) In his political dimension, the
“Anointed One”, as King of the Jews, was expected to lead his people in open
rebellion against the invader, in this case, Rome. Many individuals in Jewish
history – before and after Jesus – have been called “Mashiyach”, but
none of them have been executed by the Jews; at worst, they have been
excommunicated. On the other hand, countless individuals have been crucified by
the Romans for rebelling against the state. In the case of the Judean rebellion
of 70 AD alone, the Jewish death tall is estimated to have been between 600,000
to 1,300,000 lives; there was "no room for crosses and no crosses for the
bodies" (Josephus, “The Jewish Wars”.)
D) Nothing the Gospels report as having been said by Jesus is more inflammatory,
accusatory, or castigating to the Jewish people than what the Old Testament
prophets had said many times before, centuries earlier. The prophets were
neither stoned nor harmed in any way. What would compel “the Jews” to behave
differently with Jesus?
Again, I do not wish, and will not discuss theology. If Bro Watson sincerely
holds those beliefs as a matter of faith (which I doubt, given the tone of his
article) I apologize for any discomfort I may have caused him, and will hereby
end any further discussion. But if he wishes to discuss history, I suggest he
refers to John Dominic Crossan’s “Who Killed Jesus? Exposing the Roots of
Anti-Semitism in the Gospel Story of the Death of Jesus”, Harper, 1995. He may
find this book quite valuable.
In spite of mounting evidence, I would still like to believe that, when writing
his article, Bro Watson’s intent was correct. So, to proffer an olive branch,
I will finish this long letter with his very own last words, although I will
give them a slightly different twist. He states: “I believe that part of our
hidden mysteries and secrets can be found within. I challenge each of you to
continue on your path to the true light of Masonry.” To which I answer: I
believe that all of our hidden mysteries and secrets can be found within
ourselves. I do not challenge. I rather beseech all of us to continue on our
path to the true light of Masonry, so our inner demons – be them conscious or
unconscious – are not allowed to intrude in our relations with our fellow men.
S & F Yours
Ruben Gurevich, 32, MPS
Dear Brother Gazzo:
I wrote the above letter before I realized that Bro Watson is an ordained
minister. Had I known that, probably, I would have shrugged my shoulders and let
another ill-conceived article go to its well-deserved oblivion.
But now, I am glad I did it. As Bro Watson would probably agree, being a man of
the cloth is no guarantee of being free of error. Still, were I to write my
letter again, I would not have doubted the sincerity of Bro Watson’s beliefs.
I had no right to do so, and for that I apologize. Still, I do not understand
his thinking. He seems to castigate religious intolerance while engaging in the
same practice. Or is it that “the Church of Rome” and “the Jews” are the
only ones capable of “Religious Fanaticism” and other churches, and
individuals, are free from it? Even though I am not presumptuous enough to
believe that my letter would influence Bro Watson’s thinking in any way, I
hope it will prompt him to be more careful when addressing a Masonic
constituency, which, by necessity, consists of men (and women) of good will who,
while sharing a belief in the Supreme Being, do not need to share any particular
dogma or belief.
Also, for some reason, my browser refuses to copy the Hebrew words with the
letters in the correct right-to-left order. I am sorry about that.
Thank you again for your attention to my letter.
S & F Yours,
Ruben Gurevich, 32, MPS
In response to Bro. Gurevich response to my paper.
I am afraid that he has misinterpreted what I was trying to convey. I was only try to reconvey what Albert Pike had written in his Legenda which I had clearly pointed out in the paper.
I additionally was trying to get across the point that fanaticism is a dangerous thing, and all of the examples that I used were ones the Albert Pike had used which again I had pointed out in the paper itself.
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