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Loss of the Word

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It may have happened as told in Masonic tradition. Yet we feel certain the “Word” was used during the time the First Temple was standing. The ceremonies of the Most Excellent Degree would so indicate. The loss may have occurred during one of the periods when King Solomon reverted to idolatry. Or the loss may have been during the reigns of any of the many weak kings that succeeded Solomon and before the destruction of the Temple. Certainly, if not before, it occurred at the time the Temple was burnt. We are at a loss to know which is correct.

At least the true pronunciation was lost and remained buried until the building of the new Temple, when we are told that it was found. Whether our ritual is or is not correct at this point is not important. We are told it was found.

The Jews used in the Bible a number of names for Deity. In the English version they have been translated in different forms depending upon the sense in which the word was used. The study of why and how the “Name” has been translated is not here important. We do know however that the Jews were forbidden to pronounce the true name God, and that, only the High Priest might do so. How and when this was done is familiar to you.

After Moses received the “Name,” it was kept in the Ark in a sacred place, until such time as a permanent place could be secured. When the Jews had occasion to use the “Name,” they would substitute for it the word “Adonay.” The Word when it appeared in their Scriptures was never spoken.

God promised the Israelites that they would have a permanent home in the Land of Promise and that He would deposit His name in a permanent place. This place would then become sacred and a center of worship for the people and they were to consider this place as God’s dwelling place. As we know Jerusalem became the place for the erection of the Temple, in which was placed the Ark, the place of deposit.

We have now advanced to a point where it is not necessary to our religion that there be such secrecy, or that the “Name” be known to only a few, but we do hold the “Name” in reverence, and we do expect that those who pronounce it always do so with reverence in their hearts.

Masonic Adaptation

Having now shown why we have a “Name,” how it was lost and later found, may we now seek the reason why this has been incorporated in the Masonic degrees and particularly the Royal Arch.

I will not attempt here to give a history of the Chapter degrees. This has been done before. When Masonry changed from its operative form to a speculative system, it became necessary to incorporate in the several degrees a lesson, or lessons, that would be of interest to the Craft and which would assist the members in their moral and spiritual life. Where in all history or literature was there anything more worthy of that place than the story of the loss and recovery of the “Word.” Surely there can not be anything more uplifting.

In the words of Com. Joseph E. Morcombe:

“What, then, is this Word - what underlies the paradox of that which is forever being lost and yet forever found? It is the secret of the ages and the revelation of all recorded time. It is the indwelling dream of the mystic, the deepest thought of the philosopher, the ecstatic vision of the poet and the passionate speech of the prophet. Men of the Old Aryan race knew its accents in the earthly paradise beyond the Himalayas. The priest of Egypt whispered it in the ears of the dying as he passed to the judgment hall of Osiris. It was given to Moses in the thunders of Sinai and it found softer speech in the words of One who called the children to Him in old Judea. It is the monopoly of no age, for it abides in ancient tradition and abounds in the latest developments of science. It is confined to no creed, no school of philosophy.

The savage, bowing to his idol, strives to pronounce it and he whose loftiest intellectual flight is aided by heaven-pinioned Faith halts in its utterance. It is, in short, that portion of Absolute Truth which every man must seek and find for himself-that individual revelation from the Unerring and the All-Good.”

Do you wonder that we make the search a part of the ritual? Or that we spend our lives in a search for such a worthy object?

The Word in Masonry

 The “Word” is found in some form in every degree in Masonry, and there is an inner explanation of every Masonic symbol which centres on a hidden Divine Word, which can only be found by the pure in heart after a diligent search, because it is not open to the superficial seeker. He may deny its existence, but either openly or in some cryptic message it is always present.

The candidate approaching the door of the Entered Apprentice lodge is in darkness, and receives light but partially upon his admission. He has however, laid the first stone in his Masonic edifice and receives some important knowledge upon which he may begin to build. In the Fellow

Craft degree, he receives further instruction, particularly in the arts and sciences as applied to Masonry. In the Master’s degree, he learns many thing of importance and is given a “substitute” word, with the information that a further search will well repay the time and effort. To the true seeker for knowledge there is no rest here. Study and time must be taken to assimilate the lessons presented and to conform his manner of life to meet their requirements. He then goes on and in the next degree, there is presented to him “a white stone, and in that stone a new name written, which no man knoweth save him that receiveth it.” Then in the Most Excellent Master’s degree he sees the culmination of the dream of the Jews; their Temple, with its magnificent furnishings; its altar; its Holy of Holies and the acceptance of this structure by the Most High God. Lastly comes the Royal Arch, the topmost pinnacle of his search and with it the fulfilment of the promise long ago made.

The Mason must Be Worthy

No man worthy of the “Name” can pass through these degrees without trying to make of himself something better. He must strive to conquer his faults and take unto himself the qualities which make a perfect man.

The Brahmans have a system whereby in introspection they hope to realize a state of perfection. They shut themselves off from the world and hope by intense thought to conquer self. No doubt this may help the individual but it is a selfish plan, and does not conform to our system of going out in the world as Master Masons to teach the uninformed, and to spread abroad a knowledge of the Craft. The Brahman, as well as many other systems of theology, is for the individual and not for others. It is not a true search for the Lost Word. The search means that we must seek to make ourselves worthy of the “Name,” that we must remake our souls.

How challenging, how significant, how eloquent of many deep things of the soul, is this ancient search for the Divine Word, being as it is humanity’s unconscious confession that in some manner it has lost out of its heart something holy and sacred and fine; that the great enterprise of life must be to recover the “Ineffable Name,” and that if a man pursues the quest, he may, at last, find his way to that hallowed Holy of Holies where he may hear its mystic syllables. Strip the quest, as you may, of all its mythologies and baseless traditions, deprive it even of any historical basis at all, it will remain for us as the very symbol of man’s age long search for God. What a search that has been!

The Word Is God!

Through the hills and valleys of years, through the days and nights of history, through wars and through peace, through life and through death, the human soul, unconquered, undismayed, holding fast to its native idealism, has been seeking through the shadows and the mists for that Lost Word which is God.

Thus it is that the ancient secret is, after all, an open secret, available to him who will make the quest and pay the price, for the “Word” is very near to you even in the heart. There is a spirit at the centre of the soul which stands ready whenever you give Him free course with you to manifest the Divine Name, even that Lost Word which must forever remain lost to the worldly, to the selfish, the vain and the impure. But it may be found any day and any place by the simple, the innocent and the childlike or to those who sincerely desire to find it. It is an ideal for which we must search and if we earnestly seek to make ourselves worthy of that ideal, we will find the Lost Word.

Can we now wonder why the Royal Arch Degree is as it is, or why it was made the principal degree of Masonry?


The Royal Arch Mason - Vol. X  Fall, 1971
by Lyle S. Evans, PGHP, Ohio