The Origin of Masonry 3
Part III. The Symbolism of the Father's House
E. Cromwell Mensch
Speculative Masonry was instituted by Moses for the purpose of bringing the true "word" of God to his followers. These were the people of the Exodus, most of whom had been engaged in building the treasure cities, Pithom and Ramses, in Egypt. They were not a literate people, for at that time the art of writing was confined to the rulers of Egypt and their official families. Although Moses himself was a loyal scribe, he knew that the only way he could spread his doctrine among the people was through the medium of symbolism. The nucleus of that symbolism was the Ark of the Covenant, in which was deposited the true word of God. The setting for this sacred instrument was the Tabernacle, every part of which symbolized some feature of the Father's house in the celestial.
This symbolism is concealed in the cabalism of the writings of Moses, and the key to that cabalism lies in the pattern of our planetary system. For example, the superstructure of the House was made up of 7 bents, or frames, for they were symbolic of the 7 days of the week. This may be picked up from Exodus 36:27, wherein the boards of the sides westward are specified. These 6 boards were strung out, end to end, across the 5 vertical bars, also specified for this west wall in Exodus 36 : 32. Obviously, the terminal ends of boards No. 1 and No. 6 also were attached to vertical bars, for they were the corner bars in the north and south walls, respectively. Added to the 5 specified for the sides westward, these two corner bars brought the number up to 7. Each of these 7 bars was paired off with a corresponding bar in the east wall, and, with the other members of the framing, formed the 7 bents.
The symbolism of these 7 bents is to be found in the Second Degree, wherein it is stated that in 6 days God created the heaven and the earth, and rested on the 7th day. The total number of structural numbers with which the Tabernacle was framed is also given in the Second Degree. However, this symbolism was lost in the Temple of Solomon, for the stone walls of that structure replaced the function of the 7 bents used in the Tabernacle. These bents were designed as trusses, the pattern of which is indicated in the specifications for the north and south walls. Each of these walls contained 5 vertical bars. They were braced at the corners with the diagonals specified in Exodus 36:28 as corner boards, and were tied together at the top with the horizontal cross bar specified in Exodus 36:33. An extra cross bar was used in these walls to form the eaves of the Tabernacle, and was supported on 5 struts. In all, there were 14 members in each of these end wall bents, and there were 12 members in each of the 5 intermediate bents. The bents themselves were held together at the top with a series of 60 rafters, and were also held together at the ceiling level with a series of 26 horizontal ties. In all there were 178 structural members in the Tabernacle proper.
There were also 67 structural members in the Court of the Congregation, which surrounded the Tabernacle. In the specifications, 20 pillars each were assigned to the north and south sides of the Court, and 10 to the west side. The specifications for the east side are quite complicated, and, when properly analyzed, only yield 9 pillars for this side of the Court. To these 59 pillars must be added the 8 corner boards used as diagonal bracing at the corners of the Court, which makes the total 67.
The lower part of the Tabernacle was sheathed with boards, which were 120 in number. The 178 structural members of the Tabernacle, plus the 67 members of the Court and the 120 boards, bring the grand total up to 365. These 365 members were symbolic of the days of the year, and correspond to the phenomenon arising from the annual revolution of the earth around the sun, and its diurnal rotation on its own axis, as set forth in the monitorial work of the Second Degree. There was no such symbolism incorporated into the stone walls of the Temple, although the 1,453 columns and 2,906 pilasters used to enclose the court before the Temple were evidently multiples of 365, less 7, and 14, respectively.
The specifications for the east wall of the Tabernacle are rather brief. They simply call for a Door, and the 5 pillars of it (Exodus 36:38). Between the 5 pillars were the 4 archways, which formed the Door. In addition, there was a panel flanking the Door on either side, making a total of 6 panels in all. These, of course, matched the panels formed by the "six" boards in the west wall. These flanking panels in the east wall contained the corner boards, which served as diagonal wind bracing to impart stability to the structure. They ran from the tops of the corner posts down to the adjacent end pillars of the Door. Since these diagonal braces blanked off the use of these two end panels in the east wall, it is obvious they must have been sheathed with boards. This brings the total number of panels up to 12, for there were 6 in the west wall, 2 each in the north and south walls, and these 2 in the east wall. This also accounts for the 120 boards, for each panel was 10 boards high. These 12 panels represented the 12 tribes of Israel.
This arrangement of the panels is confirmed in Genesis 48:13, wherein it is stated that "Joseph took them both, Ephraim in his right hand, toward Israel's left hand, and Manasseh in his left hand toward Israel's right hand, and brought them near unto him." In other words, the two panels flanking the Door were named Ephraim and Manasseh. The 5 pillars of the Door are now represented by the 5 orders of architecture, although these orders were actually formulated by Vignola, worthy successor to Michel Angelo.
The parts so far enumerated are all authentic, for they have been worked out according to the bill of materials Moses left to posterity. Among other items, this bill lists the fastenings which held the Tabernacle together. As it was a portable structure, these fastenings were so designed that the House could be dismantled and reassembled at will. The structural members were held together by means of rings, but the specification covering them is very brief, and is only given in connection with the corner boards (Exodus 36:29): "And they were coupled beneath, and coupled together at the head thereof, to one ring." The ring in this case was cast with two lugs, and the corner boards had sockets in their ends, which fitted over the lugs of the ring. To make the joint secure after assembling, pins were inserted through both lug and corner boards. This same type of fastening was used wherever two or more structural members intersected each other. Where more than two structural members were brought to a common focal point, rings were supplied with additional lugs. Rings with as high as 4 lugs were used in some of the complicated portions of the bents.
The boards which formed the sheathing of the Tabernacle were also held to the framing by means of rings. These rings encircled the vertical bars and had lugs projecting outward from them in a horizontal plane. The boards themselves were joined together by means of dowel pins, in the same manner that extra leaves are joined together in a dining-room table, except that they were in a vertical plane. The lugs of the rings fitted in between the edges of two boards, and the dowel pins in the boards also passed through holes in the lugs. This type of joint is covered by the specification for the sockets and tenons of the boards in Exodus 36:24
From the use of these rings and pins it truly may be said of the Tabernacle that there was neither hammer, nor axe, nor any tool of iron heard in the House, while it was in building. These lines are to be found in I Kings 6:7, and are applied to the stone work of Solomon's Temple. It is hard to conceive of the fabrication of a stone building in which no tools of iron are employed. The insertion of the word "axe," even though it was not used, raises the question as to whether this passage was not also borrowed from the Tabernacle along with the attempt to copy its design. The axe was used to shape the boards and bars of the Tabernacle during its initial fabrication, but, after that, no tool of iron was ever required during its subsequent assemblies.