Healing Community

I was reading an online article published by My Jewish Learning called “One Small Step: Fulfilling the directive to repair the world begins in our own mouths and hearts” that made me think a little more about our Masonic responsibilities.

In the article the author describes the Jewish philosophy of Tikkun Olam or “world repair”.  The philosophy is based around the last words of Moses where he encourages the Hebrews to follow God’s command and contract and that they not only need to be responsible for their own sins, but also the sins of the community as a whole. [Deu 29 & 30]

Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

This concept struck me and is different from what I have been taught in a Protestant Christian tradition about sin and its place in the world.  When most Protestants approach the topic of sin, we see that as a personal blocker between us and God and is on a personal level. (This is not a deep dive into the azazel and is certainly not a dissertation on hamartiology.)

In the concept presented in the One Small Step article the author noted that in reality, we take responsibility for the sin or wrongdoing of others, not in the sense that we are directly responsible for their sin, but rather, we are responsible to set an example of how not to sin.

My goal is not to argue the points of theological belief, but it is to recognize two points:  First, that when we do something wrong against someone else it is in effect breaking a relationship with that person (or deity).  Second, we as Freemasons have a responsibility to our fellow men to help them overcome and avoid the trap of sin and breaking relationships.

When we speak in our lectures of building “a house not made of hands, eternal in the heavens” [2Cor 5:1], or we speak of Living stones [1Pet 2:5], or cement of brotherly love and affection, we are talking about our place in community and setting examples for others.  

This boils down to a logical argument about us as Masons being part of “World Repair”.  We must first recognize that we are created beings.  Next we must understand that the GAOTU has placed us here for a purpose.  Then we must know that we as a collective of men (and women) have a responsibility to one another.  Next we must explicitly know that we can only be better as a society if we elevate one another. Finally, we as Masons must set that example to raise each other and then others so we can move from the point of darkness to light.

When we spread brotherly love and affection we are in fact spending time building up others and helping to guide them in right actions.



Discussion Group: Freemasonry: A Journey Through Ritual and Symbol



Over this past summer, our Lodge held a discussion group on the Kirk MacNulty title A Journey Through Ritual and Symbol, published in 1991.  I noted that there was a lack of questions geared toward this kind of discussion, so I did a little googling and looked for some questions to be prepared for the discussion.  To be fair, I did a pretty poor job of collecting the source of some questions in the General Section.  For that I apologize and will happily give credit where it is due.  Please feel free to let me know and I will add sources in footnotes if you desire specific credit.  Some questions

The discussion was broken into two parts, one on the text, the other on the art.  Unfortunately the art discussion was poorly attended and didn’t add much value.  The discussion on the text was lively and fairly well attended.  I am not including the second session art portion as there was a bit of art work that I am uncertain of its copyright status.

Some observations:

  1. Not everyone took time to read the material.  This led to quite a bit of discussion management.  Opinions, while interesting, really don’t add to the discussion without context.
  2. It seems that even casual students of Masonry really don’t have a good lexicon of symbolism to draw from.  Honing that skill in open Lodge has value.
  3. Widen the net.  Masons from other Lodges may not have this kind of discussion in their home Lodge.  Look for those people to extend the conversation.

This won’t be the last time we do this kind of study, but we will look for more opportunity to narrow the focus and look for members who will truly participate in the discussion in a meaningful way.

Feel free to use these questions in your discussion.  Let me know if you do so and keep me informed of anything interesting that arises.


Session 1 – Text


  • Was the title of the book appropriate for the content?
  • Do you feel that the theme of the book was adequately explored?  Are there more areas to consider?
  • Did anything in the writing surprise you?  What was the most pivotal revelation from the text?
  • What has resonated the most with you personally, either negatively or positively?
  • Is there anything in the text that you disagree with?
  • How would this text help others?

Pursuit of Knowledge

  • How do you feel about the the mission of “know thyself”?
  • How do you feel about the transmission of “mysteries” from one generation, society or culture, to another?  How do we do this today?
  • How do the degrees represent mystery?  Are they effective at communicating?  Are the effective as bonds?

Thread of Mysteries

  • Is it appropriate to use Greek polytheism to interpret the our own psyche?  Gods relating to individual emotions or psychological phenomena.
  • How do you feel about the assertion that Vitruvius translated those parts into architecture?
  • Do we effectively teach our lessons through the mysteries?  Are there better ways to communicate or make light available?
  • Has the “illiterate” population lost the ability to understand symbols?
  • How do “illiterate” people use symbolism today?
  • How do you think the Reformation or Anti-reformation reshaped Freemasonry?

A New Look at the Renaissance

  • Was it appropriate for the early Christian church to nurture intellectual growth?
  • How did Humanism impact or change the church’s role in spreading knowledge?
  • How did the Medici really influence the growth or spread of reformation?
  • What was the result of misunderstanding where the Hermetica came from?  How does that impact us today?
  • Why did the Muslims allow large exchanges of knowledge during their rule in the late 1400’s.
  • Why did the Roman church adopt the Kabbalistic/Hermetic texts?
  • Is it appropriate to treat the Physical, Psyche, Spirit and Divinity as separate entities?
  • Why did the Church reverse its decisions in the 17th century?  Did that cause or help influence the creation of Lodges?
  • How do you feel about the assertion of influential and intellectual men infiltrating a declining group like the operative Builders Guild?

Freemasonry as a Psychology

  • What is our Masonic Psychology?
  • How would you define Masonic Metaphysics to a new member? (being, knowing, substance, cause, identity, time, space)
  • Why is the superficies associated with the psyche?
  • Is it appropriate to associate the three levels of the Temple of Solomon to the three Degrees and also the Jungian psychology of personal consciousness, personal unconsciousness and collective consciousness?
  • What is the collective consciousness of Masonry?
  • What is the Masonic Model of the psyche? (19)
  • Are we responsible for leading a man to “know thyself”, or are we to just give him the tools?
  • How are we best disposed to help train the EA, FC or new MM?
  • How can we help new Masons understand the secrets of Masonry without unlawfully revealing them?
  • Is it unlawful to “connect the dots” for a Brother?
  • What did you find the most enlightening about the tracing boards?

The First Degree – EA

  • What is implied in the difference between “humanity” being the Temple of God vs. “man” being a temple?
  • Ego vs. Self – How does a man best accomplish this task?
  • How can we best use the “self” exposed through the Path of Honesty? (21)
  • How does the phrase “To Lean, subdue my passions and improve myself in Freemasonry.” relate to the external world?
  • What are the capacities of the working tools (24 inch gauge, gavel and chisel [european])?
  • What is the view of the tracing board of this degree? (external, looking up)

The Second Degree – FC

  • How can we be sure that a FC candidate has made sufficient proficiency in the proceeding degree?  What is “sufficient” in this context?
  • Why do we use a ladder in the first and stairway in the second?
  • What is the view of the tracing board of this degree? (internal, looking up)
  • Why can’t consciousness be described?
  • Can we store unconscious lessons of the craft?  How do we retrieve them?
  • How can the fraternities circumscription of our behavior become harmful? (25)
  • Can we evaluate or use the unconsciousness of others to extend our lessons?
  • Who determines morality?  Is there a norm that society can agree upon?
  • How does morality balance with free will?
  • To pay the craft their wages, if any be there due.  How does this phrase mesh with the concept of the middle chamber being the place of receiving wages? (JW/Self/experience)

The Third Degree – MM

  • How does death convert to life in the context of the legend?
  • Why are the three principle officers, in balance, said to lose the secrets of a Master Mason? (29)
  • What is the distinction between recognize and believe?
  • Why do we fear death?  Why do we fear death of self?
  • Why does the author make distinctions between active and passive tools?
  • Is the MM degree really the culmination of learning?
  • In what other ways does the Master facing West show charity and compassion?


St. John the Baptist


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presented 06/25/2014

Late last year I spoke about Saint John the Evangelist and it is time now to talk about St. John the Baptist.  As you know we do not put forth one faith above another and it is often strange to new members to talk about the “Saints John” in the context of the Lodge as they are often associated with the Christian religion.  It is important therefore to understand why we pay respect and revere these patron saints of our Fraternity.

The first time we hear about the Saints John is on our first entrance into the Lodge.  The Sr. Steward explains to the Sr. Deacon that we want “to receive the Rights and Benefits” of this Lodge, “erected to God and dedicated to the Holy Saints John.”

During the catechism between the Senior Warden and the Master at the opening of the Entered Apprentice degree, we learn that the SW comes from, “A Lodge of the Saints John of Jerusalem.”

In the instructional lecture we are reminded that in “modern times” the Lodge is dedicated to the “Holy Saints John…who were perfect parallels in Christianity as well as Masonry.”

And that’s it.  We hear no more about the Sts. John in our work.  What gives?

The “Saints” we are referring to are John the Baptist and John the Evangelist.

So what does St. John the Baptist have to do with Freemasonry?  Notably, he is marked as the Patron Saint of Stonemasons.  Our ancient brethren formed the first Grand Lodge on 24 June 1717, which is the day of the Feast of Saint John the Baptist.  One of the earliest recorded lodge of stonemasons working on Cologne Cathedral was known as The Fraternity of St. John the Baptist.  Ancient Grand Lodges also install new Grand Masters during this feast.  (In fact that is what is happening at our Annual Communication for the Grand Lodge of Michigan this week!)

The infancy narrative about John gives us a slight glimpse into his childhood and something to model our own lives after.  Much like our lessons in Lodge, his father, Zechariah, exhorted him to follow the scriptures and wisdom of deity, to honor and obey his parents, and not to be rebellious.  Muslims and Sufis also honor John the Baptist and In the Qur’an, he is described as a prophet, being pious and pure in heart and deed.

John the Baptist was an itinerant preacher.  He was the guy who wandered about preaching a message of forgiveness.  He dressed in clothes made of camels hair and ate locust and honey in the wilderness.  The gospel of Mark tells is that he baptised Jesus and was beheaded for denouncing the incestuous marriage of Herod to Herodias.  In Matthew we are told that he was the one that Isaiah prophesied about.  He was critical of both Pharisees and Sadducees.  Sadducees being both priests and aristocrats did not believe in resurrection and oral Torah tradition.  The Pharisees tended to be poor, democratic, believed in resurrection and believed they were set apart from others through literal interpretation of scripture.  Both believed that “doing,” or “following the rules” would allow redemption.

John, apart from these Jewish sects taught four major focuses:  First one of charity.  In the Gospel of Luke he enjoins the crowd to “share with one who has none.”  Second one of contentment and satisfaction by not taking more than they should and to be happy with what they are given in pay and not complain.  Third, that we cannot claim salvation/redemption or a future simply by our lineage, or who we are by birth.  Our character determines who we will be.  Fourth, that there is a coming that will baptize followers with fire.

John the Baptist is revered by many different beliefs and religions:

  • Eastern Orthodox Christians see him as the bridge between Old and New Testaments.
  • Gnostics believed he was part of the Divinity and there is a tone that he was the Messiah and reincarnation of Elijah who needed to be reborn to know the True God.
  • Catholics revere him not only on the Feast Day, but also on his beheading (Aug 29).  Those that understand the alchemy around this will want to research it further.
  • LDS churches believe that John received his ordination from an angel and appeared in upper New York State.
  • Islam, where he is called Yahya, reveres him as a prophet and forerunner of Jesus as a prophet.  Also that John was with Mohammed when he ascended to heaven.

I have told you all of this not to preach some message of salvation, but to help set the context of the many reasons why I believe the ancients picked St. John the Baptist as a patron saint for our fellowship.

The act of Baptism of Jesus and divine election.  Scripture says, “there suddenly was a light,” on Jesus that emanated from Heaven.  I believe there is a correlation between that light and the act of receiving light in the Lodge..  I am not suggesting that we are elected from God to bestow salvation on the world; but I cannot miss the connection that we are elect to gain wisdom and knowledge and continue the building of the temple.  In effect I believe we are called to share our light with those that would seek it with us, which is not dissimilar to the message preached by John.

John is the patron saint of the Knights Hospitaller of Jerusalem.  Theories suggest that the Templars had the head of John the Baptist.  After glory and then being persecuted, it is believed that the early Knights Templar were absorbed into this group of Knights after the dissolution of the Templars in 1307.  It is speculated that the templar went underground inside the Hospitallers to continue its traditions and avoid persecution from the church.  Would these knights possibly have the head of their patron?  Possibly as it was often thought that keeping relics or portions of a saint would help benefit believers and help them in the future.

The date of the Festival, June 24, is close to, or on the summer solstice (which is June 21 this year).  As our ancient brethren were very keen on the importance of astronomy and astrology this correlation should not be lost on us.  The literal translation of solstice is “sun standing still”.  In our minds this should have an impact on how we view the power of the universe and how important it is to know the inner workings of the physical world.  It isn’t just the longest day of the year, it is the event of the Sun and bringer of light is the closest it can be to us and we should stand still in reverence.  It makes sense that our astronomically versed brothers would see this relationship and find a natural point to adopt St. John into the fold.

John teaches charity as being important, and like the Lodge, the one thing that extends beyond ourselves to help others.  Our ancient brothers would have seen this direct connection and quickly adopted John, teaching charity into our mythos.

St. John the Baptist represents man in the wild, searching and preaching.

It is believed that the last painting by our brother Leonardo da Vinci was his work, “St. John the Baptist”, painted in about 1516.  Hermetic literature leads us to believe that John is giving the fire-sign (right index finger pointed upward), which is a key point in our Masonic heritage.  While there is little connection here other than the assumed membership in our august brotherhood, da Vinci did study many of the same hermetic principles we expound in freemasonry.  He was often noted to include “hints” or “nods
to these teachings, embedded in his artwork.  Despite all of the nonsense fantasy around da Vinci, there are truly connections in his work.

The martyrdom of John, because he held fast to his teachings parallels our own myth of Hiram Abiff.  Even torture or threat of death would not cause him to give up on his sacred trusts.

While we cannot say with 100% certainty “why” St. John the Baptist was included in the mythos of Masonry, I think it is clear that there are many parallels that cannot be dismissed as conjecture and should be studied further.

Fire, the John Gesture. Philip Coppens. accessed 21 May 2014. http://www.philipcoppens.com/johngesture.html

Full text of “Holy Qur’an”. Internet Archive. accessed 21 May 2014. http://archive.org/stream/HolyQuran_prof.hasanQaribullah_sudan/HolyQuran_prof.hasanQaribullah_sudan_djvu.txt

The Holy Saints John. Ward.  accessed 21 May 2014.  http://www.freemasons-freemasonry.com/ward.html

John the Baptist.  Wikipedia. accessed 21 May 2014. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_the_Baptist

The Larmenius Charter and the Legitimacy of Modern-Day Knights Templar.  Zubras. accessed 21 May 2014. http://www.knighttemplar.org/files/LarmeniusCharter.pdf

Luke 1 (NIV). Bible Gateway.  accessed 21 May 2014.  http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke%201&version=NIV

Luke 3 (NIV).  Bible Gateway.  accessed 21 May 2014.  http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke%203&version=NIV

St. John the Baptist: The Iconography.  accessed 21 May 2014. http://www.christianiconography.info/johnBaptist.html

St. John the Baptist (Lenonardo). Wikipedia. accessed 21 May 2014. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._John_the_Baptist_(Leonardo)

Pharisees. Wikipedia. accessed 21 May 2014. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pharisees

Prophet John (Yahya). Islam 101.  accessed 21 May 2014. http://www.islam101.com/history/people/prophets/john.htm

Sadducees. Wikipedia. accessed 21 May 2014. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sadducees

Solstice.  Wikipedia.  accessed 21 May 2014.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solstice



Megalithic Masonry


Some of the earliest building techniques included what we term today as Megalithic Masonry.  This technique enabled the builder to construct crude structures by the use of rough cut stones and joining was done without the aid of mortar or cement.  Stones, or more appropriately, boulders, would be irregular in shape and rely on the aid of gravity, friction or partial burial to keep them in place.

Megalithic construction is also sometimes referred to as Monolithic but that term often refers to singular stone structures such as menhirs, carnac stones and general columns.

A sub form of this masonry is referred to as Cyclopean masonry, which is specific to Mycenaean architecture where limestone boulders are rough-cut and stacked to form walls, often with a shallow foundation.  Mycenae is an archaeological site in Greece, southwest of current day Athens.  During the period from 1600 BC to 1100 BC Mycenae was the center of Greek civilization and dominated the area.  The Mycenaean builders realized that enormous, thick walls created the best defensive structure and relied on them heavily in the creation of their citadel to protect and defend the city.

We derive the name Cyclopean masonry from this building style and a bit of Greek literature and mythology.   We know the Cyclops as a child of the marriage of Uranus and Gaia.  Known as brothers to the Titans, three Cyclopes are noted by Hesiod, those being Brontes (thunder), Steropes(lightning) and Arges (brightness, as from lightning).  These three were locked in Tartarus, a dungeon of torment, by their father, as he feared they would overthrow him.  Subsequently they were released by Zeus to craft lightning bolts for him as Zeus sought to overthrow Cronus.  According to the hymn of Callimachus the Cyclopes were helpers at Hephaestus’ forge (they god of blacksmiths) and as such the Cyclopes were giants well versed in crafting with metal and built the weapons of the gods in their quest to defeat the Titans.  As Hephaestus is the Greek counterpart of Vulcan they are tied to the ability to craft with brass and iron.  Often depicted as one-eyed beasts in modern portrayal, they were thought of quite differently by ancients.  In point of fact, it was a custom by ancient blacksmiths to wear an eyepatch to protect them from flying sparks and potentially being blinded in both eyes.  It is assumed that only the Cyclops, with his brutish nature, could possibly have constructed the structures at Mycenae, Tiryns or Cyprus.

Other Cyclopean buildings can be found elsewhere in the world such as Italy and South America.  The people of Machu Picchu built enormous structures from found and quarried rock.  The layering of their work shows actual intricate detail in the methods of joining stone, but most of this work requires little skill other than cutting and laying.  Structural integrity in these cases requires simple balancing and weight to keep things in place.

An alternate form of structure found even in early Northeastern America up to 4000 BC includes the building of cairns, which are intentionally piled stones into formal structures, again not using mortar.  These are simple buildings or structures, sometimes used as homes, storage, grave markers or even ovens.  These small structures are crude and require little skill to construct, other than a creative mind and ability to stack or pile stones.

Historical Megaliths

There are a number of extreme forms of megaliths found throughout the world, some of these include Stonehenge , Giza, Carnac, Ollantaytambo and Teotihuacan.  Each of these megalithic sites required moving large amounts of material over vast distances.  Stonehenge in Britian required the ancients to transport over 80 bluestones from the mountains in Wales, some 250 miles to the current location.  The ancients constructed the site in many phases.



Lost Civilzations of the Andes http://davidpratt.info/andes2.htm

Hidden Italy: The Forbidden Cyclopean Ruins (Of Giants from Atlantis) http://www.richardcassaro.com/hidden-italy-the-forbidden-cyclopean-ruins-of-giants-from-atlantis

Stone Masonry and Engineering at Machu Picchu, No Aliens Needed http://michaelsheiser.com/PaleoBabble/2009/07/stone-masonry-and-engineering-at-machu-picchu-no-aliens-needed/

Who Taught the Inca Stonemasons Their Skills, A Compariosn of Tiahuanaco and Inca Stone Masonry http://www.michaelsheiser.com/PaleoBabble/Who%20Taught%20the%20Inca%20Stonemasons%20Their%20Skills%20A%20Comparison%20of%20Tiahuanaco%20and%20Inca%20Cut-Stone%20Masonry.pdf

Cyclopean Masonry  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyclopean_masonry

Mycenae https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mycenae

Lions Gate https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lion_Gate

Hephaestus https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hephaestus


Stone Cairns http://www.stonestructures.org/html/cairns.html

Extreme Masonry http://www.ancient-wisdom.co.uk/extremasonry.htm


Tubal Cain



Tubal Cain

We use this word often in Masonry and it should be familiar to you, but what exactly is a Tubal Cain?

Origin of Word

The word is thought to be derived from the Bible. It is a man’s name, derived from the marriage of Lamech and Zillah.  Not very interesting at first blush, but if we look at this from a genealogical perspective we find that Tubal-Cain is the 8th generation from Adam, from the line of Cain.

He is briefly mentioned in Genesis 4:22 as the son of Lamech and Zillah.  His brothers were Jubal, a famous musician and Jabal who was a heardsman.  His sister is Naamah who is said to have perfected weaving and other skills.  Tubal-Cain was an artificer in bronze and iron works.

It is interesting to note that the Bible tells us little about the relationship either Lamech or his wife had with God.  Experience tells us that those who don’t have a relationship with God also don’t teach their children about Him and I believe in this case the Bible is telling us that because Cain was cursed by God after killing Able.  Cain became a city builder, he moved away from God relying on himself before he relied on God.  To further the point Lamach probably didn’t know anything about him and probably didn’t pass on a tradition of worship on to Tubal-Cain.

It may also be interesting to look at the analog character from the Greek histories – Vulcan, the god of fire and metal working.  This is a bit of a stretch, but we find other creation stories that overlap and it is worth noting the Greeks viewed Vulcan as the God of fire, something both needed and hated.  It was needed to cook, craft and clean fields and brush for harvest.  It was also a destroyer in that it would kill anything in its path.

Jewish tradition holds that before the flood, the four siblings created two pillars that could not be destroyed and encoded all of the known science of the time onto them.  One pillar of bronze and one of clay; one would not burn the other would not sink.  These were to protect all knowledge in case of a massive fire or flood.

It is a bit of a reach but you might also thing of Tubal-cain as our first war-monger or profiteer.  A person who crafted metal to be both a working tool as well as a weapon of war.   He was godless and carried the curse of Cain.

Flavius Josephus the 1st century historian describes Tubal-Cain as “[exceeding] all men in strength, and was very expert and famous in martial performances, … and first of all invented the art of working brass.“

The tribe of Nepthali is important here because this ties this Hiram back to Jacob through the slave of his daughter Rachel.  That slave was Bilhah who gave birth to Dan as well as Nepthali.  He was the fifth son of Jacob and was given wise council from the blessings of Jacob and Moses.  He was also the 10th point of ancient Masonic Lectures tying him to the lecture on the apron.

So why the big round about circle?

Hiram of Tyre or King Hiram was the Phoenician King of Tyre, or Southern Lebanon.  This is the place that Europa and Elissa were born, the founders of Europe and Carthage.  King Hiram and King David were friends this is well documented( 1Ki5:1).  And Solomon asked King Hiram to help him build the temple, to complete his father’s work when he was crowned.  Don’t miss the point here.  God had Solomon work with foreign workers to create His temple.  He gave Solomon the wisdom to work with these people, which also gave him the resources he needed to complete God’s work.  This should remind us that we should emulate King Solomon’s wisdom and work in harmony with others.

How does this tie back to Tubal-Cain?  Remember he was just an artificer in metals.  I’ll get there in a minute.

The Nepthalis while living adjacent to Phoenicia were intermarrying with the foreigners and kept close ties with the Phonecians.  Effectively we can say that cousins of the line of David were keeping company with foreigners.  This probably helped to keep King David close to King Hiram of Tyre.

We read in 1 Kings 7:23 about a certain craftsman who was summoned to help work bronze in a new construction site. He was a member of the tribe of Nepthali and was a widow’s son; Hiram King of Tyre brought him in to help craft King Solomon’s Temple. There he crafted two very beautiful pillars in the portico of the sanctuary. On the left was a brass pillar called Boaz and the one on the right was called Jachin.  See it is someone living in King Hiram’s land who is also an artificer in metals that is brought into the mix.

Now be aware that the pillars aren’t the same ones as the pillars from the Jewish tradition of preserving science.  Also be aware that Tubal-Cain isn’t Hiram of Tyre.  The link here is that they are both from the same craft (metal workers).


In 1Kings 7:14 we find proof that this different Hiram character in the mix isn’t the King of Tyre, but Hiram King of Tyre knew him and so in turn did Solomon.  This is the Hiram our tradition hold dear to.  He was the bronze craftsman who added beauty and decoration to the Temple.

See in this instance Hiram the Widow’s Son from Tyre, or as we call him Hiram Abiff, had the skill, was in the right place and followed the command he was given to build God’s Temple.

So to tie this all back…

Tubal-cain is the prototype for Hiram Abif.  Hiram Abif is our prototype.

How it is used


We use this term primarily for identification.  P-G O a MM



Two-ball cane.  We have all seen them is just a silly way to remember the word and an inside joke.


Spiritual/Esoteric Views

If you can make the jump, Tubal-Cain started what we know as the Bronze Age.  This was very important to mankind and brought ne

We were divested of all metals – it is thought that metal interfered with magic and it was therefore important to make sure it was not part of the work.  Also the threat or danger of bringing a weapon into the craft was thought to be offensive to the work and would diminish the capabilities.  You’ll also remember that there was no sound of metal in the construction of Solomon’s Temple.  Peace and harmony being important to the construction of the temple to God.

As part of the craft lectures you will remember that we are presented with the formative parts of metal working: Clay, Charcoal and Chalk.

  • Clay providing the minerals for the art of metal working.
  • Charcoal to heat, smelt and refine the mineral and;
  • Chalk to provide a flux to alloy with the gangue and separate from the ore.

Who is a machinist?  What are the most important tools for doing this work?  A gauge, square, compass?  What is the forerunning process step to machining?  Casting.  In that process a raw shape is made into a mold, maybe of clay, then the molten metal is poured into the mold for finishing process.  I like to think of him as a tool maker more than just an artificer.

Metal working is advancement in the knowledge of science and a practical application of that art.  Tools can be used to craft or destroy.  A knife’s edge can cut to kill or clean a fresh kill.  A mallet can be used to crush a skull or chip away at a stone for building.

We should think in these terms then that the tools Tubal-Cain imparts to us as tools that can either help or harm.  What tools we create with our hands, those malleable items can provide peace, comfort help or can harm, maim or kill.  It is also important to think of him in terms of a person laying building tools for others to use and learn from as they gain more light.


Euclid’s 47 Problem




When I was entering High School I remember my father asked what type of geometry we would be studying.  I being new to the subject didn’t really know so my father insisted that he attend a parent meeting so he could get to know what subjects I would be learning.  The meeting was uneventful and full of the normal lists of rules and expectations about what every student should learn in school.  When asked for questions my father politely raised his hand and asked, “What kind of Geometry are these kids learning?”  I think there was some level of surprise from the Principle, Mr. E, and the Guidance Councilor Mr. H. (also the Geometry teacher).  The exact exchange at this point is a little unclear to me as I was embarrassed that my father would presume the knowledge of a teacher.  I think it was left off that my father should meet with Geometry after the meeting to gain a greater understanding of what we would be learning.

After the meeting my father chased down Mr. H to discuss my mathematics future and get to the bottom of his main concern.  My dad again asked Mr. H what kind of Geometry would be taught.  Confused Mr. H asked for a little more information and my father explained that he wanted to know if we were going to learn planar or Euclidean Geometry – because there is a difference.  After a small exchange Mr. H agreed to lend my father a textbook so he could look it over and come to his own conclusions about this – now that I am older I suspect it was because Mr. H didn’t have the answer and was tired of trying to explain this to my father.

When we go home that night my father reached into the bookshelves in our living room and dug out a dusty black and yellow book – more of a handbook.  He flipped through the well worn pages, turned it around and showed me what he was talking about.  A picture of a sphere and the angles you can create through the sphere seemed magical to me and was really quite interesting.  He told me then and there that the most important thing I would need to know was the funny looking formula on the page labeled the Pythagorean Theorem.  Honestly for the next year and many years after as I learned more about mathematics pulled down that book and dug for the information and studied the proofs to understand what it all meant.

Later that summer, boring textbooks aside, I was able to use that neat little trick I learned on my first real construction job.  At the time I was just doing menial labor on a pool construction at my neighbor’s house. Mr. R, our neighbor, had decided that instead of laying off his machine shop for the summer he would employ them to renovate his pool decking area and make a way for his shop employees to get some income and him to derive some benefit (a lesson I have tried to apply many times over).  Well as most projects go once you start to any depth you find that there is much much more that needs to be done to complete the project.  First it was the fence that needed to be replaced, then the skirt of the pool, and the liner of the pool all the way down to re-digging and laying the pool foundation.

While the crew was struggling with the foundation they kept running into problems getting the entire length of the pool to square up.  They had spent almost a day working to make the angles of the pool nice and square and kept driving carpenter’s squares into the corners of the pool for force it into square.  I watched this for a little while then said, “Why don’t we just calculate the lengths of the hypotenuses and then make them equal on their bisection?”  Once I had realized that I blurted this out I was completely embarrassed.  Here I am a snot nosed teenager trying to tell grown men how to do their work.  You can only imagine the looks on the faces of me 30-40 years older than me taking advice from a 14 year old.  Some of them had not had the opportunity I had to learn geometry and didn’t even understand the vocabulary.  Others thought I was making it all up.  Mr. R being an open minded guy asked me to explain, which I did by drawing in the dirt.  The guys all looked at the picture, nodded assent and got to work.  We were able to square the pool quickly and move on with our labor.

It wasn’t until some years later that I understood more about why my father took such an interest in that Euclidean Geometry thing or that Pythagorean Theorem.

I have told you all of this, as I have been thinking and researching about this arcane piece of Masonic lore, for some time now, to say:  I think we as Masons often overlook the importance of our symbolism and take for granted that which was handed to us by our predecessors.  I also think that in the wisdom of our forefathers they embedded more into our lore than we are willing to dig for.  We have to be willing to go beyond the scratched surface and look for more light.

The Pythagorean Theorem isn’t too arcane of a subject and is really quite simple.  Most of us learn it at some point while in school or preparing for a trade.  The premise of the theorem is that the sum of the squares of the base and up-right lengths of a 90 degree triangle are equal to the hypotenuse.

a^2+b^2 = c^2

But there is more.

We are told during our catechism that when Euclid found this out he cried ‘Eureka’ and sacrificed a hecatomb or 100 cattle as an offering of sacrifice.  It is doubted by scholars that Euclid in fact did cry out the joy he had when he figured out this little problem, and it is well known that technique was well known by Indians, Greeks, Chinese and Babylonians by this time.


It is also well known that the Egyptian pyramid builders employed a special class of resources called Harpedonaptae or “rope-stretchers”.  These men employed a unique method of ensuring buildings were square and facing East, as all regular and well built temples and buildings should be.  They would survey the skies at night to find the true North-South line which would prepare them for laying out a square North-East corner by finding the perpendicular to the North-South line.  The method for finding true North during the night is a matter of finding either the North Star or the Southern Cross and is well documented.  Using a stick and plumb bob or sexton one can find the direction of North easily.

The method they employed to find the true East-West line required a rope and three sticks.  They found that if they divided a rope into twelve equal parts and then placed sticks at 3, 4 and 5 they would create a 90 degree angle to the North-South line thereby establishing a true East-West line, and at the same time establishing a set of four 90 degree angles to derive the remainder of the building angles from.  Try it yourself; it is a nice trick we use to teach Boy Scouts navigation.  There are of course other ways, but this was chiefly the documented method used by the ancients.

The ancients guarded this knowledge and treated it as magic.  Those with the know-how often controlled the destiny of others or at least were able to keep a position of importance or income for themselves.

The solution to the problem is really quite trivial and if you break down the verbiage used in the proof of the theorem it makes a lot more sense.  Our Masonic brethren baked in an example of this technique into the decorations of the lodge, it is sometimes used to represent our Past Masters and is used as the jewel of a Past Master in some jurisdictions like Pennsylvania.


The problem is really about checking the area bounded by three squares of differing sizes, illustrated by the image below.  By adding the total SQUARES of each square, we find the sum of the base and upright squares is equal to the sum of the square that the hypotenuse.  The simplest of these to manage are 3, 4 and 5.  Magic, no?


There are many proofs of this theorem and not really the point of this writing.  One proof entails drawing a bounding square of the triangle with one side being the length of the hypotenuse.   Then using the area of the resultant square, take the remaining area and divide it into triangles which are rearranged to create squares matching the area of the base square.  One famous proof comes from our 22nd President and Brother James Garfield which shows the proof in a light that is derived from the above.  Even more interesting is to see a parallel proof by Brother William Burkle on using a certain point within a circle to derive the proof.

Now that I have you glazed over with theorems and proofs I want to bring you back to the point or premise of my argument about our symbolism and the layering of knowledge.

We often stop in our search for light at this point and assume that this is all mathematics and related to building edifices.  I stop to wonder what about that temple not made with hands eternal in the heavens?  Do we have more here than just simple High School Geometry class?  I think we do.

Interestingly I found a parallel to this thought from a dissertation by one of our Prince Hall Brethern that was similar in my thought.

Exodus 27:1 is a command from the Lord to create an altar.  It says:

1 “Build an altar of acacia wood, three cubits high; it is to be square, five cubits long and five cubits wide. 2 Make a horn at each of the four corners, so that the horns and the altar are of one piece, and overlay the altar with bronze. 3 Make all its utensils of bronze—its pots to remove the ashes, and its shovels, sprinkling bowls, meat forks and firepans. 4 Make a grating for it, a bronze network, and make a bronze ring at each of the four corners of the network. 5 Put it under the ledge of the altar so that it is halfway up the altar. 6 Make poles of acacia wood for the altar and overlay them with bronze. 7 The poles are to be inserted into the rings so they will be on two sides of the altar when it is carried. 8 Make the altar hollow, out of boards. It is to be made just as you were shown on the mountain.

When I read this I feel there is much more to what our Masonic Brethren are telling us.  This is an alter that contains the easy to remember 3-4-5 rule.  It is 3 cubits high, is square (4) and is 5 broad.

From a numerology perspective we see more interesting facts.  It is well known that our Jewish, Nepthali and Phoenician Brethren practiced the science of numerology, which out founders were well acquainted with.  They may have thrown us a curve ball to look more deeply into the lessons we are taught.

The first number is considered Holy to our ancient brethren and many cultures as it represents divinity and trinity, it may also represent the Wardens of the Lodge.  The second number four represents the wholeness or perfection of man and may represent the four perfect points of entrance in a Lodge.  Five, the last number represents man himself or the people of the Bible after the fall and is also representative of the Pentagram, which is man.

The sum of the first two numbers, seven, represent the sum of a perfect lodge of Entered Apprentices, the seven days that to create the earth or seven cardinal virtues, and seven deadly sins.  This is the perfect number in Islam.  It is the number of the universe.  The sum of all three numbers, 12, represents an even more interesting perspective of deity and is considered more holy as a multiple of the base number (3) as well as the sum of the numbers representing deity (1+2=3).  It is the number of months in our calendar as well as the number of hours before high-twelve and number after low-twelve.  This is also representative of the fruits of the spirit and number of disciples and gates at the Holy City of Jerusalem.

If anyone cares the volume of the altar is 75, which added together is the number 12, which added again is a divine number 3 (so is 12).

I am sure these just scratch the surface of the numerological analysis of the numbers.

More Resources:








We often use strange sounding words in our Masonic lore.  Sometimes they are fugitives from a previous generation and are linguistic anachronisms.  From our great Masonic lectures we are told that Shibboleth is a password used by the ancient men from Gilead to distinguish themselves from the Ephramites.  In Judges 12:5-6, the Gileadites used the word as a linguistic pass-code to separate themselves from their enemy.

“Whenever a fugitive from Ephraim said, “Let me cross over,” the Gileadites asked him, “Are you an Ephraimite?” If he answered, “No,” they told him, “Please say Shibboleth.” If he said, “Sibboleth,” because he could not pronounce it correctly, they seized him and killed him at the fords of the Jordan.” (Judges 5-6, HCSB http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Judges+12&version=HCSB)

The Ephramites could not form the words correctly and instead of being able to articulate a “Sh” sound they could only make an “S” sound.  This gave them away and the fugitive would easily be apprehended.  The aspirate sound is missing – and is a key.

We are told that the word, in Hebrew, means “Ear of Corn”.  In reality it means the part of a plan that bears grain, like corn or wheat.  What we are not told is that this word can also mean “stream” or “torrent” of water or place where you cross the water.  In the time of Solomon the ear of corn represented plenty and was often used to pay laborers wages.  Entemologically the word derives from the Hebrew Sihlet-Shabioth, which is derived from the root word Shabal, meaning “to go”, “to go up”, or “to grow”.  There has been much discussion about what the word really means but to a Mason it should mean “plenty”.

Albert Mackey and others take some stab at including the concept of watershed or waterfall as part of this definition and it is found in some regional US ritual.  I would argue that it really doesn’t add or detract value but ignores the real purpose for freemasons as being the concept of plenty.

Mankind has adopted this word Shibboleth to mean word or practice that is indicative of someones origin.  For example jargon or modern bonding jokes may mean something to one group of people but seem totally foreign to someone else.  During battles American soldiers often use baseball or other sports terms to tell if someone is an American or not (Battle of the Bulge).  Also consider that there are many regional dialects that have specific sounds “House vs. Haus”, “Pop vs. soda”, etc.  You may also find the term Shibboleth used in a variety of technical applications and products as there is a high sensitivity to security and electronics.

Of particular interest to me in the study of this word is the relative usefulness to modern Masons.  We are known as a secret society and often times found to have particular modes of recognition, but how exactly does this word apply to us?  Why didn’t operatives pick something else, say block or tackle or any number of useful tools in the trade?

I wonder if maybe this term was chosen to remind us of two basic elements of communication: there must be a speaker and a listener.  Someone must convey the message and another must interpret the message.


Shibboleth, http://www.ruf.rice.edu/~kemmer/Words/shibboleth.html (03.13.2011)

Shibboleth, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shibboleth (03.13.2011)

Jephthah, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jephthah (03.13.2011)

Masonic Sheaf of Corn, http://www.masonic-lodge-of-education.com/masonic-sheaf-of-corn.html (3.13.2011)

Masonic Symbolosm, Charles Clyde Hunt, http://books.google.com/books?id=f62CKhtfC2kC&pg=PA420&lpg=PA420&dq=shibboleth+masonic+meaning&source=bl&ots=93mh8rFraS&sig=yg4LKarNMukLBOz5BVrUQVoH2fs&hl=en&ei=DX5-TYmzMsyKrQG7t4XcBQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=3&sqi=2&ved=0CCYQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=shibboleth%20masonic%20meaning&f=false pp 420-430. (03.13.2011)

Discalceation and Circumambulation


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Sandalias del Neolítico de Albuñol (M.A.N. Inv. 595 y 596) 01

We are evolved creatures.

Why do I know this?

Is it because of computers, the telephone or our ability to think abstractly?


It is all because of shoes!

We wear them for comfort and to protect ourselves.  They keep our feet dry and warm.  Shoes protect us from rocks, snow and other hazards. We have shoes specialized for our work and our play.  We even put shoes on our animals and our cars.  They keep us safe and help us to get where we want to go.  They are integral to our lives and we must have them – just ask your wives!

I bring the topic of shoes to you today to discuss our interesting use of shoes in Masonic Symbolism.

Like most obscure things there is even a special name for how we manage foot wear in the Lodge  – The Rite of Discalceation.

The Rite of Discalceation is an old one in Masonry and the World.   It is older than our ritual and has been performed by countless cultures in the past.

We unknowingly submit to this ancient rite before we cross the doors of this Lodge.  Our intender demands we remove our shoes and put on the magic pajamas in the ante room.  We are asked to leave a foot completely bear in the first and second degrees.

We are drug around a room, with one foot cold and the other hobbled in an ill fitting slipper or sock – afraid to stub our toes as we follow our conductor.

Later we learn that this is an ancient custom between two people and it is referred to as “Plucking off one’s shoe”.   But what exactly does this mean?

The book of Ruth specifically talks about this Rite:

“Now this was the manner in former time in Israel concerning redeeming and concerning changing, for to confirm all things; a man plucked off his shoe, and gave it to his neighbor; and this was a testimony in Israel.” Ruth 4:7 KJV


So what exactly does this have to do with Masonry?  Why do we take off our shoes before we enter the Lodge?  Is that all it is supposed to mean?  More especially why only have part of our footwear on at a time?  I believe like many Masonic symbols that it is layered and has many meanings.

In the first instance and from the Biblical account we know that the parties traded shoes to show that a transaction had occurred, because the possession of one shoe was evidence that something had happened.  In the case of a bargain both parties would have a shoe.  It it was therefore often thought of as a sign of sincerity and obligation to another.  The idea is that there is truth and sincerity in the transaction

Secondly this rite is combined with our overall appearance as we enter the lodge, “…neither barefoot, nor shod, neither naked nor clad, hoodwinked…” to make a point about what condition we are in coming into the lodge.  We are sloppy, half naked, blind and can’t even manage to protect ourselves.  The idea is that we cannot do this on our own and need help from others and the GATOU to find light.

Thirdly this rite shows that there is a transference of power.  Giving up a shoe is debilitating and requires forethought. (It was also very important in ancient times because who would want to wander around without shoes!)  In our case the loss of a shoe shows us we are giving up authority and power to someone else – the Lodge.  What is it we are giving up here?  I believe it is our personal will as we work to achieve our goal of finding more light.  We are willing to make a bargain to get what we are looking for.  The idea here is that we are relinquishing the “self” to the power and authority of the Lodge and the GATOU.

Fourthly the rite is combined with the Rite of Circumambulation, or the rite of walking around.  The rite that forces an experience of fatigue, hard work and a journey to get what we are in search of.  The idea here is that we have to work for what we want/need.

We perform this rite three times.  Each a little different than the others.  Specifically in the third degree we are completely barefoot.  What does this mean exactly?  Why on earth would we give up all our shoes?

We are on Holy Ground.

It is an ancient custom to prepare oneself before going into a Holy place.  Ritual washing and cleansing, including the feet was particularly important so the Pilgrim would not infect or desecrate the Holy place with outside influences.  (This is called the Rite of Lustration)  The one thing they could not clean were their shoes – so they left them at the door.

In Exodus 3:5 Moses finds God as the Burning Bush and has a direct command from God:


5 “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”


When I was in India some years back I found that many holy places and temples expected visitors to remove their shoes and leave them at the door.  We learned to place our shoes out of the way as there were often piles and piles of shoes near temples.  It was expected that bare feet would be the only things to touch the ground.  The idea being that the participant would be more closely connected with spiritual.

So too we expect our MM candidate before they enter into the Holy of Holies to remove their shoes – they are entering sacred ground.



Lodge Dues




When I was in college, like many other young men, I joined a fraternity on campus to have an opportunity to live with like-minded men and to share in a bond of mutual support and encouragement.  Early in the process we were told about the costs of joining, which included initiation fees and yearly dues.  To a young man with little income and paying for education, this can be daunting.  Fees at that time ranged around $300 to join including first year dues.  This didn’t cover costs for living or food, just for costs to be part of the group and normal expenses for entertaining and upkeep of our facility.  The treasurer at the time was responsible for collecting these fees, and some of the candidates and members often dropped because they could not afford the expense.  In response the treasurer liked to remind everyone that: “Brotherhood begins and ends with dues.”

While this is a simplistic view of fraternity and brotherhood, I think there is a slight hint of truth.  When we choose to join an organization there is a financial cost that goes along with that commitment.

Masonic Lodges continue to fall away through decline in membership, and there is enough evidence to point at part of this failure is in how we value the fraternity and the financial evidence shows that we have chosen to price it in such a way as to reduce its value both internally and externally.

This gets me fired up and I would love to change it locally.  I am thinking out loud here to get some feedback on my thought process because I am going to challenge our Lodge about this very thing.

Our local dues are next to nothing ($65 USD if I remember right). [We don’t have rent or property tax, so we don’t have huge expenses.]  A large portion of this expense goes directly to Grand Lodge to help facilitate its expenses and contribute to the programs it runs.  The balance is left with the local lodge to pay bills, entertain, do charitable work, etc.

Doing some simple math using an inflation calculator I get some interesting insight. Our original Lodge dues were $1 in 1865, that translates to about $15 in 2013 (last year for CPI). Running that same cost in 1865 and adjusting for CPI turns out a number like $225 for 2013. This means we are only charging less than 1/3 of the value our founding members were paying, and only valuing it $4.33! (Average salaries in 1865 were about $300/yr.; in 2013, they were about $51K/yr, so if I look at this in terms of percentage of salary we value 1/3 less than they did then.)

On that same note, the Lodge initiation fees were $10, $5 & $5, or $20 to join in 1865, which makes the value in today’s dollars at $300, we are charging $75 and sending the lions share to GL! Why?

Our Lodge has around 116 members. Let’s say 20% of those are paid life members (they pay nothing having put in time). That leaves us with 93 dues paying members. Let’s also say that we have 3 of those who are destitute or need to have dues remitted for some logical reason over the course of the year (secretary fee, or whatever). That means in our current state we bring in about $5850 in dues yearly.  If we raise dues, let’s say another 20% demit, leaving us with 72 paying members.  I’d say that is a shame, but I only need to have 26 members paying to keep the funds at the same rate to keep the lights on.  If all 72 members stick around and pay $225pp, then there is over $16,200 in funds to be used for enabling the Lodge to do more.  That is $10,350 more, which could be used for improvements, scholarships, programming, dinners, etc.

This kind of solution could also be used to help fund deferring costs for some of the members.  We have a lot of fixed income members, so having a solution like this can still keep the lodge sustainable, and position it to get back on track with reasonable costs.  If we create a solution to defer costs for some of the retirees we could still keep them on the books and position costs to grow over time.

I hear all kinds of arguments about why we cannot raise the dues.  The continued argument that raising the dues will make people leave is hogwash. While low dues does make the barrier for entry and sticking around very low, it doesn’t incent members to invest themselves more.  If a man hears that a lodge charges only $65 to participate year round, I am certain he will have set a mental expectation about what that money will provide.  If a man sees that a Lodge is charging $225 for dues, he will also have a mental expectation about what that will provide; taste economics tells us that is how we as people respond.

I believe We are afraid of change. We feel bad for those that cannot pay. We don’t want to deny a potential candidate due to funds and don’t want to place a hardship on our older or fixed income members. Frankly, we don’t want to pay more for this than we have to. But we should! Ask ourselves: Is the Lodge engaging men? Are we providing value?  We can accommodate Brothers who cannot afford to attend lodge and do it all the time.  Most often it is subsidizing their time with our own.  I think we need to get real, as it were.

We’ve (and I am speaking generally) hit the point were subsidizing dues for members who don’t come is detracting from our ability to focus on why were are in Lodge.  Eating baloney sandwiches might have been fine in the past, but younger generations want more.  Dealing with old or broken equipment might have been fine for a time, but having moldy costuming just doesn’t cut it anymore. Spending quality time learning and digging at Masonic light is what the younger generation wants. Let’s at least give them a fighting chance by making this all sustainable financially.

Prospects that know they are spending more will think twice before joining and be prepared, not just a flippant drive to be a joiner. Members that have invested financially will think twice before skipping and have more pride in something that is exclusive. We just have to change ourselves.



Inflation calculator http://www.westegg.com/inflation/

Aug 1865 minutes of Lodge


Always Hele


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door-101193_1280 (1)

When we hear this word “hele” for the first time, I think most of us think it is a bit like ‘hailing’ a cab.   Some of us may not even know what we are saying when we are asked to recite our initial obligation.  I think a lot of Masons struggle with the pronunciation of this word as it is not in the common vernacular and pronounce it in varied ways.  Often we hear it pronounced as “Hail”,  to rhyme with ‘mail’, or ‘male’.  Other times people pronounce it so it rhymes with “meal”.  Sometimes I have heard it pronounced “hell”, that fiery place where we don’t want to be caught.   (In fact the two words “hell” and ‘hele’ have a similar root, more on that later.)  Since the word is so ancient, and our language is had gone through many variations, such as the great vowel shift (‘meat’, as in steak, pronounced ‘met’) we may never know.  That in addition, early phonetic spelling may always keep it a secret.  The closest we have to an answer is Wrights Dialectic Dictionary from around 1900, which gives a number of different spellings, included under titles such as ‘heal’.  OED shows that it should rhyme with ‘meal’.

The Cooke manuscript shows the first use of ‘hele’ iin around 1400.  “…he can hele the councelle of his felows in logge…”  Prichard (1730) is the first to show the combination we are more familiar with today, “I will Hail and Conceal, and never Reveal…”

Once the United Grand Lodge of England was formed, they also faced issues that different areas were pronouncing the word differently and directed that it should be standardized.  At the time it was frowned upon and forbidden to write the ritual there aren’t many notes.  George Claret, however, wrote in 1844 in his Masonic Gleanings that under unification the new Grand Master re-obligated each of the Masters of the Lodges and encouraged them to go back to their respective lodges and do the same.  He used the EA obligation and when he came to the word “Hele”, he paused and said “hail”.  However in 1861 the same subject came up and was said to refer to a town called “Hele”, pronounced “heel” like the Anglo-Saxon word.  And confusion continued.

So what about the root word connection to Hell?  (Stay with me on this and don’t freak out.)  The proto-germanic word “halja” means “one who covers up or hides something.” [2]  Proto-germanic language itself is the precursor to Anglo-Saxon, English, and all of the Germanic languages.  It is interesting to note that in Norse Mythology, “Hel” (spelled with one “L”), was the daughter of Loki and Angrboða, a giant [4], is depicted as having skin that was “half white and half black”. [3]  She was appointed by Odin to watch over the underworld called “hel” or Niflheim.  This was a place called out in Richard Wagner’s Ring Cycle operas and was reserved for those who didn’t not live a noble life, or were not heroic.  The root word is “nifil”, which means “fog” or “dark”.  (As a side, Richard Wagner wasn’t a Mason but wanted to be and had Masonic influences in his life.  Freemasonry shows in many of his works including Parcifal. [5])

Although all of these facts about Hel are interesting, the most suggestive to me is that she was also responsible for trying to resurrect Baldr, the son of Odin and Frigg.  Baldr was considered the god of purity and light in Norse Mythology.  (Equally interesting is the connection between Saeo hel in the Gospel of Nicodemus and Hel herself where she exchanges insults with Satan. [5])

So why these acrobatics of language and words?

Well, I don’t necessarily think that the Freemasons of old chose the word to point at a gnostic story about exchanging insults with Satan, that was just interesting to me.  I also don’t think that there is a lot of Norse mythology bound in our ritual.

The real reason is because it is part of our job as Masons.  We are instructed to consider the first of the Seven Liberal Arts and Sciences, which is: Grammar.  Grammar teaches the proper arrangement of words according to the idiom or dialect of any particular people, and that excellence of pronunciation which enables us to speak or write a language with accuracy, agreeably to reason and correct usage.  As Daniel Sickels puts it: [Grammar] is the key by which alone the door can be opened to the understanding of speech. [6]

The particular “people” here are “Freemasons”.  We need to understand the words we use.  Particularly we need to understand how they are used and why they are used.  There is a purpose for each and every word.  They are part of our culture and mode of instruction.  They help us perpend, not only the light, but the space between us.



1 – “Notes on ‘Hele’”, Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon, http://freemasonry.bcy.ca/texts/hele.html. Retrieved 4/9/2014.

2 – “Hell”, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hell Retrieved 4/9/2014.

3 – “Hel”, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hel_(being). Retrieved 4/9/2014.

4 – “Angrboða”, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angrbo%C3%B0a. Retrieved 4/9/2014.

5 – “Richard Wagner”, Grand Lodge of British Columbia, http://freemasonry.bcy.ca/biography/wannabe/wagner_r.html. Retrieved 4/16/2014.

6 – “The seven liberal Arts and Sciences”, Daniel Sickels, http://www.sacred-texts.com/mas/gar/gar45.htm. Retrieved 4/9/2014.


Additional Reading

The Gospel of Nicodemus, or Acts of Pilot http://folk.uio.no/lukeb/books/apocrypha/Gospel_of_Nicodemus.pdf. Retrieved 4/9/2014.

adopted from presentation in April 2014