Evidence Of R. A. M. 3° On The Tracing Board

Attention: open in a new window. PDFPrintE-mail

The First and Second Degree Tracing Boards are fully explained by the Junior and Senior Wardens by their lectures, but the Third Degree Tracing Board is only touched on very lightly. The Sprig of Acacia is mentioned and that is about all. The Porch, the Dormer and the Square Pavement are referred to but with little explanation.

The Sprig of Acacia is, perhaps, the oldest symbol of Immortality that we have. It dates back to Mythology of Egypt, when Typhon, determined to destroy his brother Osiris, he prepared a beautiful gold coffin, or casket, and offered it to the one that it would fit. presenting it before his brother, he invited him to step inside and try it for size. When his brother Osiris stepped into the coffin, Typhon closed and sealed the cover and had the coffin cast into the sea, The coffin floated on the sea, finally coming to rest at Byblos at the foot of a Tamarind tree. The Tamarind tree is of the same botanical family as the Acacia and so its antiquity as an emblem of immortality is well established.

You will note the four branches on the Sprig of Acacia, three of them together and one separate, but all on the same branch. This refers to the three divisions of Craft Masonry, the E. A., the F. C and M. M.. The other branch referring to the Holy Royal Arch as laid down by the Articles of Union of 1813.

Next we see the Working Tools of a Master Mason. There is no point in going over them as you are all quite familiar with them.

Now we come to the oblong Square or a Double Square which is a symbol of the earth. You will probably recall Mercator’s Projection and how the earth was spread out showing all the surface on a flat plain. this Double Square is also a Symbol of the Lodge Room. At the ends of the Double Square are two semicircles when joined together form a circle which is a symbol of the Universe. These semi-circles being situated on the North and South indicate that we are ever in contact with the Spiritual realms of Darkness and of light.

The characters which appear in the Oblong Square are, reading from right to left, (HAB., A.F. 3000. (Hiram Abiff, the year of light, 3000) or in other words, the date of the building of King Solomon’s Temple, BC, 1000.

In the semi-circles, reading from right to left, we have the initials  T.C. which are the initials of the pass word of the Third Degree.

The Emblems of Mortality are an emblem of death and refer to the slain Master Hiram. These emblems date back to the time of Jacob, when, on his death bed, Joseph brought his two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh to his father to receive a blessing. Manasseh, being the older, was taken on the left side so as to, receive the right hand or major blessing, and Ephaim was on the right side of his father. “And Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it upon Ephraim’s head– and his left hand on Manasseh’s head–Gen. 48, 14.

The next two figures, when translated, answer to the letters M. B., or Master Builder. They are also the initials of the two syllables of the second word given on the five points of Fellowship. Turning to first Chron, Ch 2 v.49, the name of Macbenah is given. He was of the family of Judah, being five or six generations removed. The name Macbenah, in Hebrew, means covered with clad with a cloak. Our Master Hiram, at this point in the story was covered with the cloak of death, and so the work Macbenah fits into the work very nicely.

The three fives (5s) appearing on the tracing board refer to the five points of fellowship, the five syllables of the words given on the five points of fellowship and the five signs of a M. M. Five being the number of men and that there are three of them, it is not hard to imagine that they might refer to our three original Grand Masters, S. K. I., H. K. T., and H, A. B. You will note that these three 5s are placed in the form of a triangle with its apex pointing downward to signify that the possessor of this knowledge of the meaning of this symbol will receive added blessings when the practical application of the Five Points of Fellowship is practised by him.

We have now had reference to three geometrical figures on this Tracing Board, namely the Square, the Circle and the Triangle; all of which have an important part in Masonic Symbolism. The Square represents the material realm, the earth and the body of man. The  Circle represents the Universe, the Heavens or the ethereal state, the Soul. The triangle represents the spiritual or divine manifestations.

The Square represents the Craft Lodge, The Circle and Triangle represents the Royal Arch.

The next object of our attention is the Porch, the Dormer and the Square pavement. At first glance, one calls to mind the Most Excellent Master Degree, with the pillars, the Arch and the Holy of Holies, containing the Ark of the Covenant. The inscription is the same as in the M. E. M. Degree, “Holiness to the Lord” and is in Aramaic a Hebrew dialect. Exodus 39 verse 30, tells us that this is the inscription that was placed on the Mitre a Hebrew dialect. Exodus, Chapter 39, tells us that this is the inscription that was to be placed on the Mitre of the High Priest, Aaron. The Aleph, the Beth and the Lamed also appear on the Arch.

There are six sets of pillars to the Most Holy place which recalls to our mind the words of the Principal Sojourner’s lecture, after the first discovery;   “We discovered a pair of pillars of exquisite workmanship; proceeding onward, we discovered five other pairs of equal beauty ... etc.”

On the DORMER or window of the chart or Tracing Board in some countries such as France and Ireland, there is evidence of some characters having been defaced on the cut from which the chart was printed, but the Beth has not been completely obliterated. These words could have referred to the three words on the Triangle of the Pedestal of the Royal Arch, as one prominent Masonic scholar has seen Third Degree Tracing Boards with the words on it.

Next the Working Tools used in the conspiracy, the Square below the bottom figure 5, placed on an angle, is the symbol of  the letter S’ and refers to the Five Signs of the Master Mason.

The “three squares” on the foot of the coffin, are the key to the interpretation of the symbolism of this Tracing Board and come from Royal Arch Masonry. Not the Royal Arch that most of us are familiar with, but from the Royal Arch as practised in the United States and Nova Scotia. My impressions are, that the three squares were adopted to the Royal Arch from the Operative Masons of England. In an Operative Lodge, three Masters sit together in the West that they might observe the rising sun. During the opening ceremonies of an Operative Lodge, the three Masters approach the ALTAR, each carrying a Square, and place their Squares, with the one of  the Volume of the Sacred Law two form a Swastika. The Swastika is one form of the ‘Tetragrammaton or four letter word referring to the IHUH of the Hebrews, of which our word JEHOVAH is an approximation.

In closing, I would remind you that the First and Second TRACING Boards are not without some markings to connect them with the Royal Arch. The First Degree Tracing Board has its border of Royal Arch design and colour, the second Degree Board has the intersecting Triangles.