Vol. XXX No. 1 — January 1952

Not in the Ritual

That the major part of Masonic ritual is based upon the Great Light is known to all. In many parts of the work are direct quotations from the Old Testament; in other places are transpositions of Biblical language woven into the degrees.

But there is also much of the underlying principles and the spirit of Freemasonry which is inspired by the Great Light, although not evident in direct quotation.

Herewith are some of the many passages which, while not in the ritual, are vital parts of Freemasonry’s actions and beliefs. Every Mason has heard the first three verses of Genesis under unforgettable circumstances. Here let him ponder the 14th to the 18th verses inclusive of the first chapter of the first book:

And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years: And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so. And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also. (Genesis 1:14-18)

The soul of the belief in the Brotherhood of Man is read in the story of Cain and Abel (Genesis 4:3-9):

And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell. And Cain talked with. Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him. And the Lord said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And be said, I know not: Am I my brother’s keeper?

The affirmative answer to Cain’s infamous question is the root of that brotherly love and charity to which all Masons agree of their own free will and accord.

The spirit of the tale of the Good Samaritan is the spirit of the Ancient Craft. Luke 10:30-36 tells the story:

A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as be journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when be departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?

St. John the Baptist was a stern and just man; intolerant of shame, of pretense, of weakness; a man of strength and fire, uncompromising with evil or expediency, and yet withal courageous, humble, sincere, magnanimous. A character at once heroic and of rugged nobility; of him the Great Light says: Among them that are born of women, there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist. (Matthew 11:11)

Of St. John the Evangelist a thousand books have been written, and student has vied with minister, teacher with historian, to find words fitly to describe his character. St. John the Evangelist is recognized the world over as the apostle of love and light, the bringer of comfort to the grief ridden, of courage to the weak, of help to the helpless, of strength for the falling.

We do not know just when, or just how, Freemasonry adopted the Sts. John. Their “days” are the Christian adaptation of pagan festivals of a time when man worshiped the sun as the supreme god. So when we celebrate our festival days on June 24 and December 27, we walk eye to eye and step by step with ancient ancestors, worshiping as they worshiped, giving thanks as they did; they to the only god they knew for the glory of summer, the beginning of the period when days lengthened; we to the G.A.O.T.U., that our gentle Craft took for its own austere but loving characters of two among the greatest of the saintly men who have taught of the Father of all mankind.

The 133rd Psalm is recited or sung during most Entered Apprentice Degrees, and Aaron appears here, only, in a majority of rituals. But his spirit is present in the Master Mason Degree, for the Tabernacle in the Wilderness and its Holy of Holies (which were the inspiration if not the models for the Temple of Solomon and its Sanctum Sanctorum) were especially in charge of Aaron and his sons.

In Exodus 27:21 we read:

In the tabernacle of the congregation without the vail, which is before the testimony, Aaron and his sons shall order it from evening to morning before the Lord: it shall be a statute for ever unto their generations on the behalf of the children of Israel.

The Ark of the Covenant was captured by the Philistines when they defeated Israel, but it proved no blessing to those who had despoiled the Tabernacle of its treasure. It was finally brought back to Israel by David and its triumphant return is told in 2 Samuel 6:12,15:

And it was told king David, saying, The Lord hath blessed the house of Obededom, and all that pertaineth unto him, because of the ark of God. So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obededom into the city of David with gladness. . . . So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet.

Jacob and the ladder of his dream are Masonic symbols. He who will read the story as set forth in Genesis 28:10-18 will find a spirit of reverence and belief, not made a part of the ritual, but much a part of its meaning:

And Jacob went out from Beersheba, and went toward Haran. And be lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and be took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep. And be dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven; and behold the angels of God, ascending and descending on it. And, behold, the Lord stood above it, and said, I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed; And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that be had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it.

There are hundreds of verses in the Great Light dealing with beasts - many of them with the “beasts of the field.” These were of course not the ox, the ass, the sheep, the goat, but the wild animals, inimical to man. A single quotation here will suffice; it is from 2 Kings 2:23-24:

And be went up from thence unto Bethel: and as be was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald bead; go up, thou bald head. And be turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the >Lord. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them.

A reference known to all who have read the familiar Stories of the Bible, a household book for children everywhere, is that to Daniel in the lion’s den. In Daniel 6:16 is:

Then the king commanded, and they brought Daniel, and cast him into the den of lions. Now the king spake and said unto Daniel, Thy God whom thou servest continually, be will deliver thee.

A reference to vultures of the air seems to stress the keen sight of these birds of prey, as told in Job 28:7:

There is a path which no fowl knoweth, and which the vulture’s eye hath not seen.

The prophet Amos, who speaks of the plumbline in the Fellowcraft Degree, probably lived in Judah. He was a herdsman, a keeper of sycamore trees, a man of moderate means, but an independent character. He speaks in simple language and with simple illustrations, easily understood; a plumbline, a wall, a basket of fruit, a falsifying balance; Shall horses run upon the rock? Will one plow there with oxen? (Amos 6:12)

What seems important, although not specifically set forth in the ritual, is that Amos was commanded by God to prophesy. His statement of the plumbline, then, becomes an order from the Most High to the sons of men:

And the Lord took me as I followed the flock, and the Lord said unto me, Go, prophesy unto my people Israel. . . . Amos 7:15.

The war between the Ammonites and the Gileadites, as told in Judges gives “Jephthah, Judge of Israel” to the Fellowcraft Degree. But it does not tell the end of the story. Judges states that Jephthah ruled as a judge in Israel for six years; they must have been years of torment and regret. Jephthah was a stern judge who kept his vow, which was. . . .

If thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine bands, Then it shall be, that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the Lord’s, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering. And Jephthah came to Mizpeh unto his house, and, behold, his daughter came out to meet him with timbrels and with dances: and she was his only child; beside her be had neither son nor daughter. (Judges 11:30-34)

She must have been a brave girl and religious, for when she heard his terrible vow, she asked only to be allowed two months to go with her maidens into the mountains and bewail my virginity, I and my fellows.

Jephthah, of course, knew that no greater tragedy could come to a maid of the Twelve Tribes than to die a virgin, to live without a husband and children.

And it came to pass at the end of two months, that she returned unto her father, who did with her according to his vow which be had vowed: and she knew no man. And it was a custom in Israel, That the daughters of Israel went yearly to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in a year. (Judges 11:39-40)

Job, the man of boils and patience and laments, speaks in uncounted thousands of Master Mason Degrees. The master’s prayer in the second section is largely from the fourteenth chapter of the Book of Job. To some it seems a pity that his whole lament from verses 5 to 14 has not been used rather than what is normally the petition which begins “Thou, O God, knowest our downsitting and our uprising and understandest our thoughts afar off” (which is a pharaphrase of the Psalms 139:2).

But if Job’s words have been to some extent changed in the Masonic prayer, he nevertheless is within the very Sanctum Sanctorum of Freemasonry, for of all the words which Job spoke, none have rung so great a bell in so many hearts the world over as his immortal question: Ifaman die, shall be live again? (Job 14:14)

The Master Mason Degree is the answer.

In almost any Masonic Monitor it is said of the place on which Solomon’s Temple was erected: “This famous fabric was situated on Mount Moriah, near the place where Abraham was about to offer up his son Isaac.”

Ritualistically Abraham and Isaac have small place in Masonic lodges, but ethically that ancient story can lie very close to the heart of any God-fearing man, especially a Mason.

And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood. And Abraham stretched forth his band, and took the knife to slay his son. And the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thoufearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me. (Genesis 22:9-12)

Few characters in the Old Testament have interested readers more than Moses. From his finding by Pharaoh’s daughter in the bulrushes, to his being halted at the edge of the promised land, the great leader of Israel was austere, stern and wise.

The story of Moses leading the Israelites from their captivity in Egypt, the pursuit by the Egyptians, the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea, the drowning of Pharaoh’s hosts are too spectacular to have been neglected by Masonry, which uses this story to lead up to the Tabernacle in the Wilderness.

The whole story of Moses is too long for complete quotation here but a few highlights may lead the reader to look it up in Exodus for himself.

Moses was cast adrift in an ark of bulrushes on the river. Pharaoh’s daughter discovered the ark and when she had opened it, she saw the child: and, behold, the babe wept. And she had compassion on him, and said, This is one of the Hebrews’ children. (Exodus 2:5)

In the captivity in Egypt it is told that:

And Moses and Aaron went in unto Pharaoh, and they did so as the Lord had commanded: and Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh, and before his servants, and it became a serpent. (Exodus 7:10) Later Pharaoh decided to get rid of the several plagues by letting the Israelites go and be called for Moses and Aaron by night, and said, Rise up, and get you forth from among my people, both ye and the children of Israel; and go, serve the Lord, as ye have said. (Exodus 12:31)

But Pharaoh could not bear to have his slaves depart and followed them to make them captive once more.

And the Lord said unto Moses, Stretch out thine hand over the sea, that the waters may come again upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots, and upon their horsemen. And Moses stretched forth his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to his strength when the morning appeared; and the Egyptians fled against it; and the Lord overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea. And the waters returned, and covered the chariots, and the horsemen, and all the host of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them; there remained not so much as one of them. Thus the Lord saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea shore. (Exodus 14:26-30)

The building of the Temple, and the organization of the workmen for the purpose, glorify King Solomon as a grand master of great wisdom. No story of King Solomon has attracted more attention than “The Judgment of Solomon.” In 1 Kings 3:16-2 8, is the story.

Then came there two women, that were harlots, unto the king, and stood before him. And the one woman said, O my lord, I and this woman dwell in one house; and I was delivered of a child with her in the house. And it came to pass the third day after I was delivered, that this woman was delivered also: and we were together; there was no stranger with us in the house, save we two in the house.

And this woman’s child died in the night; because she overlaid it. And she arose at midnight, and took my son from beside me, while thine handmaid slept, and laid it in her bosom, and laid her dead child in my bosom. And when I rose in the morning to give my child suck, behold, it was dead: but when I had considered it in the morning, behold it was not my son, which I did bear. And the other woman said, Nay; but the living is my son, and the dead is thy son. And this said, No; but the dead is thy son, and the living is my son. Thus they spoke before the king.

Then said the king, The one saith, This is my son that liveth, and thy son is the dead: and the other saith, Nay; but thy son is the dead, and my son is the living. And the king said, Bring me a sword. And they brought a sword before the king. And the king said, Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one, and half to the other.

Then spake the woman whose the living child was unto the king, for her bowels yearned upon her son, and she said, O my lord, give her the living child, and in no wise slay it. But the other said, Let it be neither mine nor thine, but divide it.

Then the king answered and said, Give her the living child, and in no wise slay it: she is the mother thereof.

Solomon’s Temple was a most incredible accomplishment of an era that knew no power but that of men and beasts, no structural materials except wood and stone, no means of manufacture of metal parts but fire and hammer. It was the glory of its years; the Masonic story woven into its building by the Ancient Craft is a glory of Freemasonry.

A few quotations from 1 Kings may lead the reader to pursue the whole story for himself:

And it came to pass in the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month of Zif which is the second month, that he began to build the house of the Lord. . . . And the house, when it was in building, was built of stone made ready before it was brought thither: so that there was neither hammer nor ax nor any tool of iron heard in the house, while it was in building. The door for the middle chamber was in the right side of the house: and they went up with winding stairs into the middle chamber, and out of the middle into the third. So he built the house, and finished it; and covered the house with beams and boards of cedar, (1 Kings 6:1,7-9)

He built also the house of the forest of Lebanon; the length thereof was a hundred cubits, and the breadth thereof fifty cubits, and the height thereof thirty cubits, upon four rows of cedar pillars, with cedar beams upon the pillars. (1 Kings 7:2)

And Solomon made all the vessels that pertained unto the house of the Lord: the altar of gold, and the table of gold, whereupon the shewbread was, And the candlesticks of pure gold, five on the right side, and five on the left, before the oracle, with the flowers, and the lamps, and the tongs of gold, And the bowls, and the snuffers, and the basons, and the spoons, and the censers of pure gold; and the hinges of gold, both for the doors of the inner house, the most holy place, and for the doors of the house, to wit, of the temple. (1 Kings 7:48-50)

So king Solomon exceeded all the kings of the earth for riches and for wisdom. (1 Kings 10:23)

And finally in Ezra, we read:

And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, they set the priests in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites the sons of Asaph with cymbals, to praise the Lord, after the ordinance of David king of Israel. (Ezra 3:10)

The Masonic Service Association of North America