By Bro. Henry P. Jones, Tennessee
If we consider the importance that has been attached to colors throughout the ages, and the herald-like duty they have ever performed, we must inevitably reason that Masonry, the greatest and most universal of ancient institutions, must also have been launched upon its lengthening career, under a color, or colors, in harmonious keeping with its teaching. To ferret out this color, however, and discover its original symbolism, is, we fear, a task made impossible by the gloom of intervening centuries. And so, leaving the beginning, veiled, as it should be, in darkness and mystery, we must even acknowledge the decree of comparatively modern ruling and usage as authentic. But here, too, we are left partially in dobt. A color has been handed down to us, but the symbolism, if in truth there existed any, has gone so long unheeded, that it is lost in the impenetrable folds of the past. Thus are we forced, as a last resort, to apply the test of our own reason and imagination to our knowledge of fundamental Masonry, and accept the result as a possible solution.
“At the revival of 1717,” says our learned Brother, Dr. Oliver, “it was directed that the symbolical clothing of a Master Mason was ‘skull-cap and jacket yellow, and neither garments blue.’ ” The symbolism, however, of this “symbolical clothing,” was probably known to a few only, and was never recorded. But the Doctor continues: “In 1730, it was regulated by Grand Lodge that the Grand Officers should ‘wear white leather aprons with blue silk; and that the Masters and Wardens of particular Lodges may line their white leather aprons with white silk, and may hang their jewels at white ribbons about their necks.’ ” Of course we do not know how long Blue had been recognized as a Masonic color, but here perhaps, we have the first definite step toward its establishment as the ONE TRUE color; for, having been once permanently adopted by Grand Lodge, it would as a natural sequence, creep gradually into subordinate lodges, until it came to be looked on as the legitimate color of the Order. Thus, in brief, may we account for it. But, having the color, we cannot so easily determine its proper symbolism. And yet, methinks this should not be difficult, if we go about it thoughtfully.
Certainly, it is commonly known that Blue has in all ages been deemed an emblem of the abstract qualities, Truth, Secrecy, Sincerity, and Fidelity; but to us it should mean something more. Let us see. Studying closely the various figurative meanings that have been attached to the five fundamental, or prismatic colors, in the past, we find that, as a general rule, they may be reduced to these: green, the symbol of generative, or self-contained force, or the germ of life; youth, freshness: yellow, the symbol of the result of accumulation or long dulation; ripeness, or the full measure of resources, activity, or years; age; decay: blue, the symbol of mild, unresisting virtue; morality: purple, the symbol of royalty or sovereignty; the director or governor of physical force; wisdom; knowledge: red, the symbol of physical force or agressiveness. Taking these symbolisms of the five colors collectively, and considering them as a wnole, they may be said to represent to us the five primary essentials, necessary to the existence of a perfect human being, namely: the germ of life, the germ of death, moral initiative, mental initiative, and physical initiative. The five colors themselves, rightly blended into one, produce perfect white for it is a well known scientific fact, that when pure, or perfect white light is received into a proper body or a prism, the rays are broken, disintegrated, and applied in such a manner that there emanates from the prism in their stead, these five fundamental colors.
Let us pause a moment now, and collect the threads of our explanation into one; an easy task if they are all plainly before us. As pure light received into the proper body and correctly utilized, results in the colors, or symbols of the five essentials to a perfect man, so the True Light or Word of God, received into the heart and properly utilized, results in the harmonious working essentials themselves; the germ of life developing in fulness and perfectness, and bending gradually and fearlessly to the germ of death; moral initiative, opening to view unspotted petals, tinted with celestial hue; mental initiative, growing up in the midst of finite creation as a part of it, and thus adding to its beauty a form and texture common to no other work of the Supreme Architect; and physical initiative, developing naturally and unshackled at every point–the mountain stream rushing joyfuily along, with crystal depths unchoked by dams, unmurked by hand of man. Thus should Blue, our own suitable color, and the symbol in our illustration, of moral initiative, represent to us the perfect moral man–the result in truth, of a proper reception of the Great Light in the true heart.
We should not confine ourselves, however, to the narrow realms of pedantic Science, in our search for light.
“Blue: ‘Tis the life of heaven,'”
Yea, the silent, spreading canopy that shelters all alike, ‘neath mystic folds receding up through endless space; the end of all man’s hopes and dreams–unmeasured home of unheard strains of wheeling spheres. A fit symbol indeed, of the universality of Masonry; of the mystic veil that curtains off our lives from all past and future Time; and finally, of “that house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens,” which we all hope at last to attain, for
“The cloudcapt Towers, the gorgeous Palaces, The solemn Temples, the great Globe itself, And all which it inherit, shall dissolve.”
(If we venture to add a note to so excellent an article, it is in the hope of provoking further study of this interesting subject. The use and meaning of color in the Bible is a delightful theme, although, so far as we now recall, the late Dr. Delitzsch, of Leipzig, seems to have been almost the only one who treated colors in the Bible symbolically. In his “Iris,” fortunately now in English dress, he treats the subject at some length. Also in “Chapters on Symbolism,” by W. F. Shaw, there is a suggestive discussion of “The Symbolism of Color,” (Part IV), from which we read:–“Blue is sometimes the color of the sea, and always the color of the sky by day, when free from cloud. As such it is symbolical of Heaven, and of the things of Heaven, Truth, Knowledge, Faith. Thus the Tabernacle which was made after the pattern of things in heaven, and was a figure of the true Tabernacle, the House not made with Hands, eternal in the heavens, had its hangings of blue and purple, and scarlet, and the loops of the curtains were blue. (Ex. 26:1, 4)” Blue had an important place in the attire of the High Priest of the Tabernacle, on his breastplate and ephod, the robe of which was blue, (Ex. 28:30- 39:22), reminding the wearer that he was a priest of the God of Truth (Psa. 31:6) and the God of knowledge (1 Sam. 2:3) and that it behooved his lips to keep knowledge (Mal. 2:7). “When Moses and Aaron and the elders went up into the Mount, it is said they saw the God of Israel, and there was under His feet, as it were, a paved work of sapphire stone (Ex. 24:10). Now the sapphire is a stone of a blue color.” To which the author adds the words of Delitzsch: “Sapphire-blue is the color taken by that which is most heavenly, as it comes down on the earth, the color of the covenant between God and man. Blue passes almost universally as the color of fidelity. Even in Middle High German bla is symbolically equivalent to staete (steadfast), and staetekeit–steadfastness.” (Iris, p. 28). So much by way of suggestion. Perhaps Swedenborg has something to teach us here, as in so many things, if some Brother will dig into that mine and reveal the ore.–The Editor.)