Capitular Masonry – The Royal Arch
The Freemasonry conferred in a Royal Arch Chapter of the York and American Rites. There are Chapters in the Ancient and Accepted, Scottish, and in the French and other Rites ; but the Freemasonry therein conferred is not called capitular.
– Source: Mackey’s Encyclopedia of Freemasonry
The Fourth Degree
By William F. Kuhn – PGHP of Missouri
The Royal Arch stands as the rainbow of promise in the Ritual; it stands as the promise of the resurrection; of that which was lost and that it shall be recovered. The question arises as to whether the Master’s Word was originally communicated in the Third Degree? On this point there is some diversity of opinion. In our present Ritual of the Third Degree the Master’s Word is lost. Dr. Oliver, a noted Masonic historian, says: “The True Word was never lost but transferred to the Royal Arch,” and in corroboration of this statement further says: “I have before me an old French engraving of the Ground Work of the Master’s Lodge, dated in 1740, containing the usual emblems and on the coffin is the ‘True Word’ in Roman capitals.” This would tend to prove that before the legend of Hiram Abiff was introduced into the Master’s Degree, the True Word was communicated in the Master’s Degree and not a Substitute Word. It necessarily followed that when the legend of Hiram became a part of the Ritual of this degree, the “loss” of the “Word” followed, as the “loss” is a part of the Hiramic legend. But the “loss” without a “recovery” would be an absurdity; to complete the symbolism of Freemasonry, the “Word” must be recovered, hence the necessity for a Fourth Degree, the Royal Arch.
In 1738, or earlier, the story of the loss of the Word and the new legend, the Royal Arch, were gradually introduced into the lodges, and when the division occurred, (1751) dividing the Freemasonry of England into the “Moderns” and “Ancients,” the latter organized a Grand Lodge and adopted a Ritual of Four Degrees, the fourth being the Royal Arch.
The Grand Lodge of “Moderns” evidently continued to use the old Ritual, without the legend of Hiram Abiff, while the Grand Lodge of “Ancients” used the new Ritual containing the Hiramic legend and the Fourth Degree, until the year 1813, when the two Grand Lodges united and formed the present Grand Lodge of England, known as the United Grand Lodge of England. It is therefore to the Grand Lodge of Ancients that we owe the Master’s degree as found in our Ritual and also the preservation of the Royal Arch Degree. One of the Articles of union of the two Grand Lodges of England in 1813 was the retention of the degrees as formulated by the Grand Lodge of “Ancients;” hence, among the articles of agreement of this union, we find the only declaration made anywhere or at any time as to what constitutes “Ancient Craft Masonry.” This article declares that “Ancient Craft Masonry shall consist of the degrees of Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft and Master Mason, together with the Holy Royal Arch.”
We see, therefore, that the Royal Arch is merely the evolution of a truth contained in the early Third Degree. It is not a “Higher Degree,” but the last volume of the series in a sublime story revealed through symbolism. The Master’s Degree without the Royal Arch is a story half told, a song unsung and a promise unfulfilled. The candidate is promised that he should receive, but is put off with a “Substitute.” He is left in darkness, in doubt, and to the thoughtful one in a condition of disappointment. Yet, there is a purpose behind this seeming deception. Light and revealed Truth come only through toil and willing service. This lesson must be learned before any Mason is qualified to know and appreciate the Truth, The Master’s Word. It is, possibly, unfortunate that the Royal Arch Degree was separated from the “Blue Degrees;” but whether fortunate or unfortunate, the Royal Arch stands as the last of the degrees in Ancient Craft Masonry. It is the summit and no Master Mason is in possession of all that Freemasonry teaches without the Royal Arch. The series of four degrees continued to be conferred under a lodge charter until about 1750, in America at least. The earliest history that we have of the Royal Arch in this country was in 1758, when it was conferred under a lodge charter in Philadelphia. It was introduced into New York about the same time by an English military lodge, in Massachusetts in 1869, where it was conferred by St. Andrew’s Lodge.
Since that time the Royal Arch Degree has remained secure in its superior place. “The term Royal Arch Lodge was succeeded by Chapter and Royal Arch Chapter. The word Chapter was used in Connecticut as early as Sept. 5, 1783; in Pennsylvania, Sept. 5, 1789, in New York, April 29, 1791; in Massachusetts, December 19, 1794. The word Chapter took the place of Lodge in England, for the first time, April 29, 1768. The word Companion, used in the Chapter in place of Brother, was first used in England in 1778. These terms, Chapter and Companion, were soon carried to America where they flourish as elements in the Capitular system of degrees.”
Such, in brief, is the history of the Royal Arch Degree; its parentage is as legitimate as any of the degrees of Ancient Craft Masonry; it sprang from the introduction of Speculative Freemasonry into Operative Masonry–the fruit of symbolism and allegory. To be a Master Mason is the highest and most honorable degree that any man can attain; it entitles him to all the rights and privileges of the Craft; all the accumulated so-called higher degrees do not add anything to his Masonic stature. The Royal Arch is a part of the Master’s degree–the summit of its excellency. It is the privilege and should be the duty of Master Mason to complete the Masonic story, told in allegory and revealed in symbolism by receiving the Royal Arch.
Would you be enrolled as one living in that future generation that shall discover IT? Act now.
The Mark Master Degree.
The degrees of the Chapter are: Mark Master, Past Master, Most Excellent Master and Royal Arch. The origin of the Mark Degree is veiled in obscurity, like all Masonic degrees, but, like the others, it sprang into existence in the earlier period of Speculative Freemasonry.
It was customary for the operative Masons to select for themselves a Mark, to be placed upon every piece of work wrought by them. This was done in order to keep a check on each operative’s work by the Overseers, and to facilitate the payment of wages. Each Mark was distinctive and the same Mark frequently descended from father to son through several generations.
These Marks may be seen today on the stones in the old cathedrals of Europe. Fac-simile copies are reproduced in all Masonic histories. In Scotland, the operative Mason was required to register his Mark by the Shaw’s Statutes issued in 1598. From this requirement of registration of the Mark, the Degree was evidently evolved.
The earliest record of the Mark Degree being conferred in Scotland bears the date of January 7, 1778. Yet this does not prove that the degree was not conferred at a much earlier date. These records also contain the information that the Mark Degree could not be conferred upon any one not having received the degree of Fellowcraft and Master. A report made to the Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons of England states: “There is probably no degree in Freemasonry that can lay claim to greater antiquity than those of Mark Man or Mark Mason and Mark Master Mason.”
The degree was conferred in Nova Scotia in 1784; in Connecticut in 1791; in New York in 1791 and in Boston in 1793. Like the Royal Arch, the Mark Degree was originally conferred in the Lodge. In the United States, the General Grand Chapter, R.A.M., issued Mark Lodge Charters up to 1853, when it was prohibited and the degree passed under Chapter control. In England the degree is under the control of the Grand Lodge of Mark Masons; in Canada and in Scotland the control is vested as in the United States.
The lessons of the degree are intensely practical, emphasizing the great requirement in life, viz.: Qualification and service.
The Degree of Past Master.
The general use of the term, Past Master, by the Craft, means one who has been elected, installed and served for twelve months over a regular Lodge. The general use of the term does not imply a separate degree, although in many lodges and formerly in Missouri, the honorary grade of Past Master is conferred upon Masters elect as a part of the ceremony of installation. This grade or degree was or is conferred only in the presence of Past Masters. The degree is the second in the series of the Chapter; hence arose the terms, Actual Past Master and Virtual Past Master, the latter meaning one who had received the degree in a Chapter but who had not been elected or served as Master over a Lodge. A Virtual Past Master is not entitled to recognition by the Grand Lodge as a Past Master.
The degree is an old one. We find the expression of Past Master used in 1771 and implied as one who “having passed the Chair through some ceremony.” The Constitution of the Grand Lodge of England, 1723, speaks of the installed Master passing through certain “significant ceremonies.” There can be no doubt as to the antiquity of the degree. It dates from the birth of speculative Freemasonry. The introduction of the degree into Capitular Masonry rests on the fact that, originally, the Royal Arch was conferred only on those who had been elected and presided over a Lodge as Master, but it was manifestly unjust to a large portion of the brethren to have such a restriction placed upon them and the Royal Arch; the following law of 1789 illustrates this fact: “No brother can be exalted until he has been at least three years a Master Mason and has presided six months as Master of some regular warranted Lodge or has passed the Chair of Dispensation.” This law shows the old restriction and the modification that was assuming shape, permitting others than actual Past Masters to receive the Royal Arch. An old law found in Harmony Lodge, No. 52, Philadelphia, 1799, states: “That every brother who has not passed the Chair shall pay fourteen dollars, out of which the Dispensation shall be paid for; if he has passed the Chair for being exalted, eight dollars.”
That is, an actual Past Master could receive the Royal Arch Degree for eight dollars, but one who has not received the Past Master’s Degree must obtain a Dispensation from the Grand Master to receive it before he could be made a Royal Arch Mason and it cost fourteen dollars.
When the Royal Arch Degree passed from under the control of the Lodge and became a separate system, known as the Chapter, the prerequisite to the Royal Arch remained, viz.: The Past Master’s Degree. The Virtual Past Master Degree became a part of the Chapter series. The reason for this prerequisite becomes apparent when the Lessons of this much abused, but beautiful, degree are studied and understood. The lesson of obedience to authority is proof against anarchy, and he who would teach must first learn to obey.
Most Excellent Master Degree.
A lie well told and repeated constantly becomes a truth to credulous people. This applies to the oft repeated statement that Thomas Smith Webb fabricated the American system of Capitular Degrees and the Orders of the Commandery of Knights Templar. Any man having an ounce of brains, and will use that ounce, will find that the degrees of the Chapter and the orders of the Commandery were in existence and conferred nearly fifty years before Webb was born. The Most Excellent is frequently credited to his fertile brain, and so stated by some Masonic writers, but fortunately there is on record in Massachusetts and New York the date of Webb’s birth and the dates on which he received all the Masonic Degrees. The dates go to show that the Most Excellent was known and conferred before Webb became a Royal Arch Mason.
The latter half of the eighteenth century was prolific in Masonic Degrees in France and England. The degrees of all Rites can date their birth from 1723 to 1760, and in the maze of names and titles of degrees we find a veritable jungle. In this period we find the Irish System embraced The Chair, The Excellent, The Super Excellent, The Royal Arch, The Knight Templar and the Prince Rose Croix. The Scottish System embraced: The Mark Master, The Past Master, The Excellent Master and the Royal Arch. St. Andrew’s Chapter, Boston, worked the Irish System, except The Chair, from 1769 to 1797. After 1799 the Mark, Past, Most Excellent and Royal Arch were conferred. A prominent Masonic writer says of the change: “This transition indicates and suggests that the Super Excellent Degree contained the marrow and something of the bone of the Most Excellent Degree.”
From 1791 the Most Excellent was a well known degree and a part of the Capitular system. The Super Excellent of this period must not be taken for the Super Excellent appendant to the Council of Royal and Select Masters of today. The Most Excellent Degree is a fitting prelude to the Royal Arch, one of the most impressive degrees in its ceremonies and sublimely spiritual in its symbolism.
What of the Hour?
What of the hour in Freemasonry? Brighter, stronger, clearer. We often become discouraged and are inclined to be pessimistic; but amid all the errors and stumbling, a better day is dawning, when we shall see the beneficent labors of Freemasonry shinning in effulgent splendor. Freemasonry is growing in power and beneficence. As its immortal principles take root in the fallow soil of the human heart and mind, it buds and blossoms into the foliage of kindness and the Hesperidean fruit of charity toward all mankind. While the Masonic tramp may be seen on the beautiful highway of Freemasonry, there are many more today than ever, who are toiling in mind and heart in the treasure strewn mines of Freemasonry’s realm.
Freemasonry today means more than negative plaudits and negative principles; but she stand preeminently as a living, growing, resistless power, whose end and aim is the exaltation of man and the glory of “The I Am That I Am.” Our ancient brethren journeyed from Babylon to Jerusalem–out of bondage into freedom–with one strong purpose in view. What was the desire so pre-eminent in their hearts? What was the foundation of the zeal that actuated them to undergo the trials and hardships of that weary journey? Let them speak: “To aid in the noble and glorious work of rebuilding our City and Temple of the Lord.” It was Work, Work, Work. Not idleness and ease.
– Source: The Builder February 1915
Capitular Masonry – The Royal Arch
By Bro. Asahel W. Gage, Illinois
THE Masonic Truths taught by the Chapter Degrees are practical, and applicable to the problems of our everyday lives. The instruction is not dogmatic, but is so broad that any good Mason can find in it personal help and encouragement. From time immemorial Biblical Stories have been used to illustrate Masonic Truth which can not be written. No credit is claimed for the following thoughts. On the contrary it is claimed that their antiquity, the fact that they have stood the test of time, proves their truth and their value.
MARK MASTER’S DEGREE
Tradition teaches that the order of Mark Masters, at the building of the temple of Solomon, was selected from the great body of Fellow Crafts.
There were two classes of Fellow Crafts engaged in the work. The larger division was composed of the younger and inexperienced men who were not in possession of a mark. They proved their claim to reward by another token and after the middle chamber was completed, they were there paid in corn, wine and oil, agreeeable to the stipulation of King Solomon with Hiram King of Tyre.
The smaller division was composed of the higher class of workmen who labored in the quarries. They finished the stones, or as we say, “hewed, squared and numbered them.” In order that each might be enabled to designate his own work, he was in possession of a mark which he placed upon the stones prepared by him. Hence, this class of Fellow Crafts were called Mark Masters and they received their wages from the Senior Grand Warden supposed to have been Adoniram; the brother-in-law of Hiram and the first of the Provosts and Judges. These Fellow Crafts received their pay in metal, at the rate of a half shekel of silver per day, equal to about twenty-five cents. They were paid weekly at the sixth hour of the sixth day of the week, that is to say on Friday at noon.
The degree of Mark Master is, historically considered, of the utmost importance since by its influence each operative mason at the building of King Solomon’s temple was known and distinguished. The disorder and confusion, which might otherwise have attended so immense an undertaking, was completely prevented not and not only the craftsmen themselves, but every part of their workmanship was distinguished with the utmost nicety and perfect facility. If defects were found, the overseers by the help of this degree were enabled to ascertain the faulty workman and remedy all deficiences, without injuring the credit or diminishing the reward of the industrious and faithful.
The Mark Master degree is also important in its symbolical signification. It is particularly directed to the inculcation of order, regularity and discipline. It teaches that we should discharge all the duties of our several stations with precision and punctuality; that the work of our hands, and thoughts of our minds and the emotions of our hearts, should be good and true, such as the Great Overseer and Judge of Heaven and earth will see fit to approve as a worthy oblation.
The Fellow Crafts degree is devoted to the inculcation of learning. The Mark Master’s degree clearly shows how that learning can most usefully and judiciously be employed for our honour and the profit of others. It holds forth to the despondent the encouraging truth that although our motives may be misinterpreted, our attainments underrated, and our reputation traduced, there is One who will make the worthy stone which the builders reject the head of the corner.
PAST MASTER’S DEGREE
In the Masonic revival of 1717, men of remarkable learning and ability removed much of the rubbish which had accumulated through the dark ages. Their luminous minds and searching labors brought to light old truths and disclosed new beauties in Masonic symbolism.
In order that the Three Degrees might be more generally understood, higher degrees were gradually developed which explain and apply the moral lessons taught in the original degrees, but leave ancient landmarks unchanged. These new or higher degrees were conferred only upon those who had proved that they would appreciate and honor them. To be eligible for the Royal Arch Degrees a brother must have been installed into the office of Master “and fulfilled the duties thereof with the approbation of the brethren of his lodge.”
Interest in the Masonic Fraternity grew, and many brethren seeking further light in Masonry had not passed the chairs. This requirement to advancement was not removed but a new degree was established wherein the candidate elected to the Royal Arch Degrees, is symbolically instructed in the important lessons of the Master’s Chair.
The Past Master’s Degree teaches that he who would rule, whether over a nation, a family, or even himself, must embrace every opportunity for development so that he may be qualified; for he that thoughtlessly assumes a task for which he is not prepared, must necessarily share in the unhappy consequences.
MOST EXCELLENT MASTER’S DEGREE
The Hebrew Scriptures say little about the actual completion of the Temple of Solomon, although their accounts are very complete of the dedication. As an illustration of the growth of man or a character, the completion and the dedication may be treated as one ceremony.
The allegorical figure of the completion is broadened and its application extended to details by substituting the keystone, which simply locked or “completed” one of the component arches for the copestone which completed the temple.
When the temple was completed and, amid music and rejoicing the ark safely seated under the wings of the Cherubim; then the Lord manifested himself as a soft cloud, and in his pleasure descended as a fire out of heaven and consumed the offerings. The assembled multitude were wildly enthusiastic in their exultation. Naturally King Solomon was pleased with the Masters who had so successfully completed his work and in his gratitude received and acknowledged them as Most Excellent Masters. He empowered them to travel, receive master’s wages and charged them to dispense light and Masonic knowledge or, if they chose to remain, offered them continued employment.
The Most Excellent Master’s degree develops in a wonderful manner this great Masonic lesson:–Our own temple must be erected, a fit and proper abode for divine good and truth, then after we have deposited therein these sacred treasures, we will be filled with exaltation and joy and be received and acknowledged as Most Excellent Masters.
ROYAL ARCH DEGREE
The wonderful Scriptural story of the Temple for the manifestation and worship of God, is of intense interest and immeasurable value to the builder of individual character.
The children of Israel possessed only a temporary tabernacle from the Egyptian captivity until the reign of Solomon. David, the Second King of Israel, desired to build a temple as a fixed place of Worship, but being a man of war, with hands stained by blood, he and his people were compelled to continue in the use of the portable tabernacle.
Solomon, David’s son, a wise and good King, was allowed to build an abode for the ark and a fixed place of worship, a magnificent Temple to God’s Holy Name. In later years, however, Solomon became conceited and placed his reliance in his own wisdom and power and neglected the One True God. He loved the things and pleasures of the World. This love of pleasure and comfort, this following after “strange Gods,” this worship of practical things, resulted in strife, discord and dissension among the Twelve Tribes of the children of Israel.
Upon the death of King Solomon, ten tribes revolted and they were led by idolatry to destruction. The two remaining tribes of Judah and Benjamin, although almost as faithless, still had a succession of Holy Men and Prophets, who labored earnestly to bring the people back to the One True God.
Some years later, about 602 B. C. the people and their Kings, having persisted in their sins and refusing to humble themselves before God, were conquered by Nebuchadnezzar. Thousands of the people were carried captive to Babylon and the country required to paytribute.
The rulers placed over the Israelites left at Jerusalem were faithless. The people continued in their sins. They refused to pay tribute as agreed and renounced the authority of the Chaldeans over them. About 586 B. C., Nebuchadnezzar again descended on Jerusalem and after an eighteen months siege, captured, sacked and destroyed the city, tore down its walls, burned its temples and carried the surviving Princes, Priests and Master Builders captives to Babylon.
There is a tradition which tells how the conquerors, as an insult to the Israelites and in derision of their God and the potence of their religion, bound the prisoners in triangular chains. History indicates that instead of suffering all manners of humiliation at the hands of the Chaldeans, the Israelites had many opportunities for advancement and enlightenment. A great many of their wonderful symbols and fascinating legends are the result of their contact with the learning and the culture of Babylon. Many of the captives attained High Rank and great influence in the Chaldean government. They were allowed to own and hold property and some acquired considerable wealth. When Cyrus liberated the Israelites, after seventy years of captivity, many preferred to remain with their possessions in Babylon.
Large numbers however returned to Jerusalem and began the rebuilding of the Temple. The conditions and prospects were most discouraging. Zerubbabel the Prince of Royal Blood, Jeshua the High Priest and Haggai the Prophet, directed and encouraged the people as they labored when occasion permitted and fought when necessity required. As the work progressed, many of the Israelites, who had been unwilling to make the ]ong trip from Babylon, repented and struggled into Jerusalem in small parties. On account of the enemies’ efforts to get in and ruin the work, it was necessary that these journey stained sojourners be most care-fully examined, in order that none but the true descendants of Israel be admitted.
While this work was going on and the rubbish and the ruins of the First Temple were being cleared away, many interesting and valuable discoveries were made.
One not trained to think according to the principles of geometry might thoughtlessly pass over the fascinating details of thiS wonderful story. But to those interested in discovering the great principles and truths of every day experiences, these details are full of meaning and are of intense interest.
– Source: The Builder – August 1916
The Chapter: What It Stands For
By Bro. Asahel W. Gage, Illinois
The following paper was delivered by Gage at the installation of Evanston Chapter’s officers in 1917.
BROTHER Robert Burns in an epistle to a friend wrote:
“Perhaps it may turn out a song,
Perhaps turn out a sermon.”
To be real frank, I am a little worried as to just how my talk will be looked upon by you. The Chapter means so much to me that I feel deeply the responsibility of trying to show what it stands for. I will, however, do my best.
It must be remembered that what I say is only my own conviction. I speak with no official tongue. I am confident, however, that where I fall short or err,– there you will exercise that great Masonic virtue, Charity.
Does the Chapter stand for higher wages, larger salaries, more prosperous business, for a better and greater service to our fellows? In other words, for a more complete knowledge and fuller practice of Masonry ? Let us see:
“Masonry is a progressive, moral science.”
Anything which is progressive, cannot be fixed, it must change, and this change must be for the better, it must grow.
Morality cannot be confined to questions of sex. A thing is moral or immoral as it agrees with or violates the experience of the past as to what is good for an efficient human society. The term moral differs from “ethical,” “religious” and similar terms, in that it refers to truths gathered from the experiences of life.
A science is a system or regular arrangement of the elements of knowledge relating to some subject.
Masonry then is a growing system of the knowledge of the experiences of life.
The value of this study cannot be over estimated for as we understand these experiences and- learn their causes, we are able to control the forces that bring them about. If we have this control, we can regulate the experiences of life. With this control our lives are a succession of events of our own choice. That is, we are able by Masonic knowledge to control the circumstances in which we live.
Let us look for a moment at some of these forces. In a community where there is much poverty and want, ignorance and superstition abound. Vice and crime we see are the necessary results. Thus we learn the worth of wealth and prosperity, and rejoice in, and work for their possession by others as well as by ourselves.
Where there is abundant employment and much well compensated hard work, we always find a clean, strong moral people.
Think about these things, brethren, and you will not wonder at the great emphasis that Masonry places upon work. You will not wonder that Masonry has selected the working tools of the laborer for jewels and symbols. You will understand why Masonry makes a Master Workman, the companion and intimate associate of a King.
I might dwell upon and develop the meanings of this symbolism, if I did not realize that by doing it for yourself, you will get a result both more profitable and more satisfactory,–to yourself.
I am reminded of an incident related in “The Builder,” the Journal of the National Masonic Research ,Society, for this December.
King James I, of England, desiring to play a trick on the Spanish Ambassador, a man of great learning, but with a crotchet in his head for symbolism, informed the Ambassador that there was a distinguished professor of the science of sign language in the University of Aberdeen. The Ambassador set out for Aberdeen, preceded by a letter from the King, and in compliance with this letter, one Geordy, a butcher, blind of one eye, but a fellow of much wit and drollery, was gowned and wigged as a professor and placed in a chair of the University. Geordy was instructed to play the part of a professor with the warning not to speak a word. The Ambassador was shown into his presence and they were left alone. Very shortly the Ambassador came out, greatly pleased with the experiment claiming that his theory was demonstrated. He said: “When I entered the room I raised one finger to signify there is one God. He replied by raising two fingers to signify that this Being ruled over two worlds, the material and the spiritual. Then I raised three fingers, to say there are three persons in the Godhead. Then he closed his fingers evidently to say these three are one.” The butcher was then sent for and asked what took place in the room. He was very angry and said, “When the crazy man entered the room, where I was, he raised one finger as much as to say I had but one eye, and I raised two fingers to signify that I could see out of my one eye as well as he could out of both of his. Then he raised three fingers as much as to say there were but three eyes between us. I doubled up my fist, and if he had not gone out of the room in a hurry, I would have knocked him down.”
Whether that incident ever happened or not, it is true, in that it illustrates how you can get from the occurrences of this life just what you are looking for, either God and his attributes or an abuse of yourself and trouble.
But let us get back to Masonry, for the Chapter stands solely for a fuller understanding and practice of Masonry.
In addition to its teaching of the respectability, dignity and necessity of labor, both mental and physical, Masonry has another characteristic distinguishing it from other societies:
This second characteristic is illustrated by a Talmudic legend which I again quote from “The Builder”:
Enoch, fearful that the Name of God would be lost in the impending world deluge, caused it to be inscribed upon a triangular plate of gold and placed in a secret vault for safe keeping. The flood, however, completely obliterated this vault with mud and silt so that it could not be located.
There is also another legend that Hiram, a builder, in order that the Master’s word might not be lost, wore it engraved on a triangular plate of gold suspended around his neck. Upon his death ardent search was made and great anxiety felt lest the word should be forever lost.
The word itself every Mason knows to be of little importance, but every Mason also feels the power of the knowledge of which that word is but a symbol.
Labor, the loss and the search are peculiar Masonic precepts, which can best be understood by a careful study of the Blue Lodge degrees by the aid of the peculiar light of the Chapter.
As to the significance of a mere name or word, I would quote from one of our patrons, St. John the Evangelist: “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and THE WORD WAS GOD.” My brethren, the great mystery of Masonry is the lost word and in the Lodge it is not found; we are there required to be content with a substitute. The Lodge stands for an earnest, honest search which may never be successful. The Chapter stands for a more intelligent continuation of this search which must lead to success.
Perhaps I can illustrate and make you see what I mean by the old symbolism of the Name of God:
Among the ancients to call by name signified to know the quality. By the name was understood the essence of a thing. Names were given having a peculiarity similar to and designating the thing named.
How a name referred to qualities or characteristics is illustrated by the instances of changing the name when the character was changed. For instance, in the great light, we learn how Abram was changed to Abraham, and of particular interest to Masons as well as the descendants of the twelve tribes of the Children of Israel, is the change of Jacob’s name to Israel. Jacob meant “Supplanter” and you will remember how he supplanted his brother Esau, but when Jacob abandoned his mean characteristics and wrestled with the Spirit of God and conquered, his name was changed to Israel, meaning “Soldier of God.”
The Name of God is but a symbol of the acts, or expressions, of God which are in the world around us. Remember, to know the name is to know the nature.
To the Orthodox Jew, the Name of God included all things. It governed the world by its power. Other names and surnames ranged about it like officers and soldiers about their sovereign. The Christian will realize the importance of this Name when he reflects upon the benefit to humanity accomplished by the Galilean “in the Name of the Father.” He healed the sick, multiplied food and administered charity, in the Name of the Father.
The Name of God is symbolized by a word. Masonry is not interested in ancient superstitions or idle speculations in reference to this Name or word, but grasps every thought that may assist and help us to acquire a broad knowledge and understanding of that which is symbolized by THIS “WORD.”
The Chapter stands for the key to Masonic Knowledge and Understanding. It would unlock the symbolism of the Blue Lodge. It would show the Craftsman, how by honestly working for his fellow men, he himself profits. How the little task, conscientiously and apparently unobservedly done is not in vain. How the moral quality apparently destroyed with its possessor, is not lost. How the kindness done or service rendered apparently unnoticed or forgotten is sacredly preserved. How the hard labor, performed apparently without fee or reward, must inevitably be fully compensated. The Chapter stands for an ample wage for an honest service. It stands for a knowledge of the Master Mason’s Word that will enable us to travel in foreign countries, work and receive Master’s wages.
– Source: The Builder March 1917