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the names of god


part II - Symbolism and the Teachings of Freemasonry

W. M. Don Falconer PM, PDGDC

God the creator is the ultimate reality beyond human comprehension, the absolute.


The human concept of God


The modern English word God is identical to the Old English word signifying good, whence it is believed that the name God refers to the divine goodness. The Old English word is akin to the Old Frisian, Old Saxon and Medieval Dutch word god, the Old and Medieval German got, the German Gott, the Gothic guth and the Old Norman goth, all of which in their original usage appear to have signified “the One (the Being, hence the Deity) invoked”. Human beings have been developing their concept of God ever since the tribal religions of primitive pre-literary societies began to evolve, when the earth came to be regarded as the great sustaining mother, as expressed by Homer in Hymn 30, 17: “Earth – Mother of the Gods, the wife of the starry Heaven”. Primitive religions did not relate solely to the relationship between the visible world and the spiritual world, but constituted a way of life in which every activity of an individual and of the community had a religious significance. In many primitive societies the sun was regarded as the central source of light and life, as reflected in Rig-veda I.115-1, the hymn in which the Hindu pundits interpret the sun as representing the Supreme Being whom they called the Soul of the Universe, that is Brahman. Hindus believe that Brahman is the power from which all worlds proceed, in which all worlds subsist and into which they will finally return.


Inevitably, the human concept of God has been influenced both by the environment and by the circumstances that prevailed during the development of civilisation, but even among primitive societies some profoundly meaningful beliefs were held. The limited ability of humans to comprehend the essence or Being of God is reflected by the fact that even the scriptures of the enduring religions that are of global appeal seldom discuss the essence or Being of God, but refer almost entirely to the Attributes of God that inevitably are expressed in relation to human attributes and human knowledge. Thus the Character of God as the creator and as a moral agent is described in terms that would be applied to human beings, often with qualifications that attempt to illustrate the immanence and transcendence of God. Likewise the Will of God is expressed not only in relation to the self-determination, eternal power and universal purpose of God, but also in relation to the perceptive aspect of God by setting out those rules of moral conduct by which human beings should be governed. In this process many Names of God have been developed in an attempt to convey the omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence of God. The Westminster Shorter Catechism gives this definition: “God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth”.


Monotheistic beliefs


All of the world’s great contemporary religions are fundamentally monotheistic, although many of them have beliefs concerning the deity that seem otherwise. Most of the primitive religions that preceded the contemporary religions also seem originally to have been founded on what essentially were monotheistic beliefs, even though many of them incorporated polytheistic characteristics at various stages of their development. At first sight this statement probably does not seem to reflect the codes of belief that have been defined by influential members of the various faiths, whether past or present, even when considering religions of significance in modern times. For example, the important concepts embracing the Trimurti of the ancient Hindu religion and the Trinity of the comparatively modern Christian religion, both seriously challenge what are usually put forward as the essence of monotheism. The apparent conflict undoubtedly is due in part to an inability to express esoteric concepts using mundane speech, but the underlying problem goes much deeper than that, reflecting the present inability of the human mind to grasp what it is that could constitute God. Before considering the Names of God any further it would be helpful to examine briefly some of the ancient and fundamental beliefs from which our modern religions have developed. They will be reviewed without reference to any specific religions, aspects of which are discussed later.


In the earliest records that we have of human religious thought, it is evident that even then God was conceived of as a creator. Quite naturally when regard is had to the human experience and hence concept of procreation, God was perceived to be a mother goddess who gave birth, directly or indirectly, to all things that were created. By a similar process of reasoning the earth was seen to be the sustaining medium on which human existence depended, whence it could readily be perceived as the womb of the mother goddess. Likewise, as the primitive mind could not comprehend how the mother goddess could produce offspring without first having been impregnated with life giving seed, it quite naturally followed that the life-giving warmth of the sun was perceived to be that seed and hence that the sun was the paternal counterpart of mother earth. In essence these were the fundamental aspects of all ancient religions. Hence, from the earliest time, monotheism has always embraced the concept of a bisexual deity, which usually has been envisaged as a heavenly couple rather than as a hermaphroditic entity. Many aspects of polytheism are a direct result of the concept that the deity is a heavenly couple. In a comparable sense, the rejection of creation as the result of a “big bang” event and of the processes of evolution, on the basis that they are not compatible with a concept of God as the creator, could be the direct result of a misconception of those aspects of God that spiritually, even though not physically, are fundamental to the process of creation.


The threefold essence of God


Except in Islam, nearly all of the world’s great religions express a fundamental belief that the deity is a multipartite being having at least two aspects, but most commonly that God exists as a triune essence. This belief was implicit in the ancient Egyptian religion, is exemplified by the diverse aspects of the Trimurti in the Hindu religion and is the basis of the Trinity in the Christian religion. Some of these aspects will be discussed to illustrate what is meant by the triune essence of the deity. Although the Hebrew Scriptures do not develop a Trinitarian doctrine specifically, the doctrine is implicit in the revelations that are given. For example, we are told in Genesis 1:26-27 that “God said, Let us make man in our image after our likeness . . . so God created man in his own image . . . male and female created he them”.


In Job 28:23-28 the creative and controlling power of God is personified as wisdom by the statement “to depart from evil is understanding”. The scriptures repeatedly emphasise the importance of wisdom, as typified in Proverbs 12:8 which asserts that “a man shall be commended according to his wisdom”. It is interesting to note that many of the exhortations in the Book of Proverbs are almost identical with those of an Egyptian text that is at least two thousand years older, called The Wisdom of Ptah-hotep. In Exodus 31:3, Numbers 9:15-22 and Judges 3:10 the spirit of God is revealed as the source of physical strength and knowledge and as the dispenser of all blessings. This aspect of the triune essence of the deity is illustrated in the threefold blessing that Aaron gave to the children of Israel, which is the Old Testament prototype of the apostolic blessing used in the New Testament. Aaron’s blessing is recorded in Numbers 6:24-26 in the following familiar words:


“The Lord bless thee and keep thee:

The Lord make his face to shine upon thee and be gracious unto thee:

The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee and give thee peace.”


Ancient Egyptian concepts


The ancestors of pharaonic Egypt followed a basically monotheistic cult of the Mother Earth Goddess until about 10450 BCE, when “Planet Egypt” came into being in the ancient city of ‘Iwmw that was on Tell Hisn some 15 kilometres north-east of Cairo. ‘Iwmw was “the city of the pillar” called On in the Bible. This event was the First Sunrise, or Zep Tepi, when the ancient Egyptian religion of a one and only absolute God was born. It was believed that the Absolute Spirit, called Ra, had been diffused in primordial Chaos before the creation and until the beginning of time, when Ra became aware of himself by seeing his own image, Amon, in the Great Silence. Traditionally Ra became the Light and Conscience of the Universe at that instant, when he called his double Amon, the Spirit of the Universe, to himself with the Word or Creative Power. Then Shu or space-air and Tefnut or movement-fire became manifest and they in turn generated and separated Geb the earth and Nut the sky, thus ending Chaos and establishing equilibrium and the environment for the creation of life.


The ancient Egyptians believed that when equilibrium had been established, terrestrial and extra-terrestrial life were created by the fertilizing force of Osiris, the seed and tree of life, in conjunction with the generating force of Isis, the fecund power, reflecting the primitive concept of the Mother Earth Goddess. Monotheistic beliefs of the Egyptian religion were explained to the illiterate peasantry through mythological gods illustrating a multitude of divine attributes. By the second half of the third millennium BCE the mythological gods had become an instrument of power for the priesthood in Egypt, which they used to exercise their control over the peasantry. During that period such a relapse from monotheism to polytheism was common in the religions of most people inhabiting the countries in the Mediterranean region, including the Canaanites, the Greeks, the Romans and even the Israelites.


According to the most recent chronologies, Akhenaten assumed the throne as Amenhotep IV and ruled as pharaoh from 1350-1332 BCE, abolishing the mythological gods and restoring the religion of one absolute God, Aten, of whom the pharaoh was a prophet. He was greatly influenced by his wife, a Mitannian princess named Nefertiti, which means “the lovely one who comes”. Akhenaten “created every man equal to his brother” and completed the pylons his father started at Karnak. He also built four temples to Aten at Thebes and then constructed his new capital city at Tell el-Amarna about 450 kilometres north of Thebes, which he called Akhetaten, meaning “the horizon of Aten”. Akhetaten became the new seat of religious power, with a peak population of about 20,000. When Akhenaten died his son assumed power as Tutankhaten, but after the priesthood had regained power they persuaded him to return to Thebes and change his name to Tutankhamen to honour Amon, the Spirit of the Universe,. The city of Akhetaten was completely destroyed, a long period of anarchy and misery ensued and the deceased Akhenaten was called the “heretic pharaoh”.


There is an interesting sidelight to the relationship between the Egyptians and the Israelites and the influence that the Egyptian religion had on Judaism. In the eighteenth century it was suggested that Akhenaten was Moses who led the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, but archaeological investigations have not supported this theory. Another suggestion is that Moses was a high official in the court of Akhenaten’s father, Amenhotep III, but this also seems unlikely. The date of the Exodus cannot be determined with certainty, but the suggested periods range from as early as the Hyksos expulsion from Egypt in about 1570 BCE to as late as about 1220 BCE at the end of the Merneptah’s reign, neither of which is considered likely. As there are insufficient historical records in the Hebrew scriptures, attempts to determine the date must be made by correlating the Exodus with other events. The earliest possible date seems to be about 1440 BCE, during the reign of Amenhotep II, which is not absolutely precluded by contemporary Egyptian history.


Nevertheless, all of the available evidence suggests that a date not later than about 1300 BCE is more likely, soon after Tutankhamen’s death and possibly at the beginning of the reign of Seti I. On this basis Moses could have been born during the reign of Akhenaten, when one of Nefertiti’s six daughters might have found Moses in the basket among the bulrushes and taken him into the royal household. Notwithstanding these possibilities, Moses almost certainly was born during the reign of the Pharaoh Seti I, during the period of the Pharaoh’s edict that every Hebrew son should be drowned in the River Nile at birth. There is considerable evidence that Moses received the classical schooling then provided in the Egyptian courts and he certainly would have been influenced by the powerful monotheistic beliefs of Akhenaten, which even then would still have been quite strong. The best evidence available indicates that the Exodus commenced during the reign of the Pharaoh Ramses II, probably in about 1280 BCE. In this context we should not forget that, even while Moses was on Mount Sinai in communion with the Lord, the Israelites made a golden calf to go ahead of them on their journey. At that time calf cults were prevalent in the delta area of Egypt where the Israelites were enslaved immediately before the Exodus.


Hindu concepts


The Hindu Trimurti, from the Sanskrit meaning “of three forms”, is an expression of the interrelationship between three essential manifestations or characteristics of the Being of God. They are Brahma, Vishnu and Siva, which embody the three Gunas, from the Sanskrit meaning strand or cord. The Gunas are the three components, qualities or attributes of material nature called sattva, tamas and rajas, of which everything mental and physical consists in varying degrees. Only pure consciousness has none of these attributes. Brahma embodies rajas, the passion that creates; Vishnu embodies sattva, the goodness that maintains balance; and Siva embodies tamas, the fire that destroys. Thus the Trimurti is an expression of the creative, preservative and destructive powers that are three of the fundamental attributes of the Being of God.


Symbolically, the Trimurti is represented by three concentric equilateral triangles, in the centre of which is the sacred trilateral name Aum. This trilateral Name of God, which is Nam in Hindi and Punjabi, is a formula that Hindus and Sikhs use in an endeavour to encapsulate divine reality. The formula is repetitively chanted in the three distinct syllables of Aum that respectively point to Brahma, Vishnu and Siva, which are followed by a silence to express the attainment of Brahman, a Sanskrit word literally meaning growth or expansion. This mystical name is represented by a symbol of three concentric triangles, of which the innermost triangle represents Brahma, Vishnu and Siva; the middle represents Creation, Preservation and Destruction; and the outermost represents the three fundamental elements Earth, Water and Air. In the Adi Granth, the first volume of the Sikh scriptures, we are told that salvation does not depend upon caste, ritual or asceticism, but upon the constant meditation of God’s name and the immersion of oneself in God’s being:


Lord, mighty River, all knowing, all seeing,

And I like a little fish in your great waters,

How shall I sound your depths?

How shall I reach your shores?

Wherever I go, I see you only,

And snatched out of your waters I die of separation.


Taoist beliefs


To conclude our discussion on ancient concepts of the threefold essence of God, it would be appropriate to mention briefly the San-I in Taoism and the Trikaya in Buddhism. San-I is Chinese for “the three ones” and refers to the threefold action of the one Tao or Way. This is the central concept of Taoism, the philosophical and religious system of Lao-tzu, the old master and founding figure of Taoism who said: “Tao gave birth to one, one gave birth to two, two gave birth to three, three gave birth to all the myriad things.” The creative three may be regarded as the guardians of life and energy and may be personified as T’ai-I who is the Supreme One, Ti-I who is the Heavenly One and as T’ien-I who is the Earthly One. Alternatively they may be regarded as representing shen as the mind, ch’I as vitality and ching as the essence. The Trikaya, from the Sanskrit meaning “three bodies”, is a doctrine of Mahayana Buddhism. The doctrine says that the Buddha manifests himself in three bodies, modes or dimensions and that in their essential nature, or “first body”, all Buddhas are identical with the ultimate truth or absolute reality. The doctrine also says that Buddhas have the power to manifest themselves in celestial form, which is their “second body”. It is further held that Buddhas can project themselves into the world of suffering beings and by their boundless compassion provide what is most useful and necessary to relieve suffering.


Christian concepts


The background to the development of the Christian Trinity has already been mentioned in relation to the Hebrew Scriptures, but some further explanation would be appropriate. The Christian Trinity is an attempt to understand and explain the relationship between God and the created or manifest world, more or less in the fashion of the Hindu Trimurti, the San-I in Taoism and the Trikaya in Buddhism, though perhaps with more complexity. The Trinity affirms the belief that there is only the one God, but that God actually exists in three persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. The origins of this belief can be found in various passages from the Hebrew Scriptures, especially Isaiah 6:3 that refers to the Lord sitting upon a throne:


“And one cried unto another and said, Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.”


This belief is founded on the Hebrew Scriptures in the Old Testament and confirmed in New Testament passages such as Matthew 28:19-20, when Jesus spoke to his disciples in the mountains after the crucifixion:


“Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you . . .”


The doctrine of the Christian Trinity has not always been the same. During the first three centuries of Christian thought only the Father and the Son were defined as being coequal and coeternal. After the Council of Nicaea in 325 the Cappodacian Fathers opposed Arianism, which held that the Son of God was a creature and not truly God. The Cappodacian Fathers were three Christian theologians all born in Cappodacia, now in modern Turkey, who were influential in the defeat of Arianism at the Council of Constantinople in 381, when they proposed the doctrine of one Being in three Persons. This doctrine of the Trinity was canonised by the Council of Constantinople and has remained the orthodox formulation ever since. A well-known monogram associated with the Trinity is IHS, originally an abbreviation for Jesus and comprising the first three letters of the name in Greek, Iota eta sigma omicron ipsilon sigma, in which the H is the uncial or rounded form of eta. Later IHS was said to represent the initial letters of the Latin words Iesus Hominum Salvator, signifying Jesus, saviour of men. Another Christian monogram is IHSV, often confused with the former. This monogram comprises the initial letters of the Latin words In Hoc Signo Vinces, meaning “In this sign thou shalt conquer”, which refers to the vision the emperor Constantine had of a cross in the sky. Finally we should mention INRI, which in some respects may be regarded as a parallel of the Hebrew Tetragrammaton that will be discussed later. The monogram INRI comprises the initial letters of the Latin words Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum, the inscription on the cross of Jesus meaning Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews. This inscription on the cross was also written in Greek and Hebrew.


Islamic beliefs


With regard to Islamic beliefs it is important to understand that, although Islam is founded on the same traditions and truths as Judaism and Christianity, the Islamic faith maintains that there can be no subdivision of God into separate or competing aspects or beings. This is a conviction that derives from the overwhelming belief acquired by Muhammad during his long periods of isolation and prayer in a cave on Mount Hira near Mecca, which led Muhammad to postulate that if God is indeed God, then there can only be what God is, that is the One who is the source of all creation and the disposer of all events and lives within it. This absolute unity of God is called the tawhid, which is derived from the Arabic at-tawhid meaning “the Unity”, through the verbal noun wahhada meaning “to make one”. This explains why the unitarian beliefs of Islam are in conflict with the beliefs of the Hindu Trimurti and the Christian Trinity. The Islamic belief in tawhid, not only implies that God is required to be believed to be One, but also implies that God’s unity must be affirmed in strenuous negation of all other beliefs. This emphasis on the Oneness of God, from whom all creation and life is derived, was the core element of Muhammad’s mission.


The Muslim rosary, or subha, consists of a yad or pointer symbolizing the “unity of God”, together with either ninety-nine beads or thirty-three beads to be repeated three times, representing the “ninety-nine beautiful names of God”. These are the names of Allah in Islam, which are mostly derived from passages in the Koran. The lists vary and are divided into two categories, those of al-dhat or essence and those of al-sifat or quality. The names are further categorized as those of mercy and those of majesty or judgment. According to Muslim tradition, that is the hadith from the Arabic meaning narrative, anyone who repeats all the names of God will be assured of paradise. Typical names of God in Islam include Allah the Absolute, Allah the Knower of All Things, Allah the Light of Heaven and Earth, Allah the Mighty, Allah the Most Conclusive of all Judges. Finally, the two probably most frequently used are Allah the Beneficent and Allah the Merciful, because they introduce the Sûrahs in the Koran.


The names of God in Hebrew


Many of the Hebrew names of God, of which there are twenty-six or more, have a prominent place in the teachings of freemasonry. The Hebrew names of God comprise two broad groups. One group includes the basic or personal names of God and the other includes names intended to define some of God’s attributes and characteristics. El is the primitive generic word for God in the Semitic languages, from which the Aramaic Elah was derived. The Arabic Ilah usually written as Allah in English, as well as the Akkadian Ilu, also were direct derivatives. El was the personal name of the supreme God of the Canaanite pantheon, the “high God” whose son was Baal. Both El and Baal are referred to in the earliest Ugaritic texts of Ras Shamra, an ancient city of the Middle East. The Elohim, the plural noun for El or Eloh the “Lofty One”, were the early Gods of Canaan brought in from Mesopotamia, “the land between the rivers”. El, which means mighty, strong and prominent, became a Canaanite proper noun as well as signifying a god in the widest possible sense. In Hebrew the title El or Yod Ayin Lamedh is used to signify a god in the widest sense, while the title Baal or He Beth Ayin Lamedh means master, possessor or husband.


El was worshipped by the descendents of Jacob in the early years of their settlement in Canaan and it became one of the most prominent names for the God of Israel. As well as being a personal name of God, El was also revered by the Israelites for his conceived relationship to places and for the many powers he was perceived to possess. In this context el elohe Israel was the altar that Jacob erected when he first settled near Shechem, in Canaan. That title, which signified “God, the God of Israel, became one of the important names of God to the Israelites. There are many other associated names of God, but one of the best known probably is El Shaddai, which means God almighty. Others important names include El Elyon, meaning God most high; El ‘Olam meaning the enduring God; and El Berit meaning the God of the covenant. The name El also appears as Elohim, often being used as an emphatic plural to reinforce the creative and governing power of God and to emphasise the omnipotence and sovereignty of God. The name Elohim is frequently translated as Almighty God, the name given to the Son and Messiah promised in Isaiah 9:6-7. Wider aspects concerning the adoption of El as the name of God by the Israelites, as well as its relationship with what probably has become the most widely known Hebrew name of God, are discussed in some detail in relation to the Ineffable Name.


The Ineffable Name, also called the Tetragrammaton, was a name of God that developed as one of the utmost importance to the Israelites in later times. The Tetragrammaton, from the Greek words tetra meaning four and gramma meaning letter, was a mystic symbol or holy monogram that Abraham, the ancestor of the Hebrew nation and its first patriarch, introduced from Mesopotamia. Among the people in the lands of the Fertile Crescent, the four characters of their mystic symbol represented the tetrad or Heavenly Family comprising the Father, Mother, Son and Daughter, respectively El, Ashtoreth, Ba’al and Anath. In his book entitled The Hebrew Goddess Raphael Patai, an eminent Semitic scholar, says the four consonants Yod He Waw He that form the Ineffable Name represent the four members of that Heavenly Family in the order set out above. The four consonants comprising the Tetragrammaton eventually became an acronym that formed the Hebrew stem of the title that the Talmudists assigned to the One God, which they called the Shem Hamphorasch or Separated Name. Because the Israelites were not permitted to pronounce the Ineffable Name aloud, Adonai or Yod Yod or some other name was substituted. The name Jehovah is not only regarded as having predominantly male characteristics, but also represents a vengeful god typified by the exhortation in Exodus 21:23-25, which says:


“And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.”


Before considering the derivation and structure of the Ineffable Name and some of the characteristics attributed to it, a review of events concerning the female components of the heavenly tetrad would be appropriate. By the time the Exodus from Egypt had begun under the leadership of Moses the female duo in the heavenly tetrad, Ashtoreth and Anath respectively the wife and daughter of Jehovah, was called the Shekinah. The title is a derivative of Shin Kaph Nun, which is a Hebrew word of Chaldean origin meaning to rest, to abide or to dwell. The Shekinah was the glory or presence of God “dwelling” in the midst of the Israelites. The Shekinah originally was said to dwell in the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle that Moses erected after he had received the Lord’s command on Mount Sinai. We are told in Exodus 40:34-35 that when Moses had finished and furnished the tabernacle:


“Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation, because the cloud abode thereon and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.”


Later the Shekinah was said to dwell in the Holy of Holies of the temple that king Solomon built in Jerusalem, which is described as a temple of Ashoreth. The Shekinah was regarded as the feminine portrayal of the Holy Spirit and the personification of Wisdom, compensating for all vengeful actions of Jehovah. This aspect of the Shekinah is extolled in Proverbs 8, which says:


“Doth not wisdom cry? and understanding put forth her voice?  .  .  .  Unto you, O men, I call; and my voice is to the sons of man. O ye simple, understand wisdom: and ye fools, be ye of an understanding heart.  .  .  .  The fear of the Lord is to hate evil: pride and arrogancy and the evil way  .  .  .  I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was.  .  .  .  When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set a compass on the face of the depth:  .  .  .  When he established the clouds above:  .  .  .  Hear my instruction and be wise and refuse it not.  .  .  .  Blessed is the man that heareth me,  .  .  .  For those who findeth me findeth life and obtain favour of the Lord. But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul; all they that hate me love death.”


With regard to the Tetragrammaton, the unpointed Hebrew characters usually are written in English as JHVH, which is transcribed as Jehovah. However, the more correct transliteration is YHWH, which is transcribed as Yahweh. The name is derived from the Hebrew verb havah meaning to be or being, which is very similar to the verb chavah meaning to live or life, in which a heth replaces the first he in havah. In the Bible Jehovah is usually translated as LORD, to distinguish it from the substitute word Adonia, which is also used quite frequently. The name Jehovah first appears in Genesis 2:4 as Jehovah-Elohim and it is used in that form to the end of the third chapter, except in the story of the temptation where only Elohim is used. The reason for this differentiation appears to be of a spiritual nature. Thereafter either or both names are used, sometimes alone and sometimes together in a sentence.

The first syllable of the Ineffable Name is Jah, which is a name of God often found in poetry, as in Psalm 68:4 where we read “extol him that rideth upon the heavens by his name JAH”. The substitute name Adonai also is used as a common name, variously translated as master, sir and lord, frequently used in the Bible to signify one or another of these titles, though most commonly meaning master. Nor should we overlook the passage in Exodus 3:13, when God revealed himself to Moses at the burning bush saying ‘ehyeh ‘aser ‘ehyeh, which signifies “I AM THAT I AM”. There also is Jehovah-tsidkenu, another descriptive Hebrew name of God meaning “Jehovah our righteousness”, which is the name used in Jeremiah 23:5-6 to foretell the coming of the Messiah. All of these and several other names used in the Hebrew Scriptures are explained in great detail in a book entitled Names of God by Nathan J. Stone.


The Cabalists revere the Ineffable Name and have analysed its meanings in several ways. Cabala or Qoph Beth Lamedh, from the Chaldaic root meaning to receive and Kabala or Kaph Beth Lamedh, from the Arabic Qabala, meaning to twist, are alternative names used in reference to an esoteric Jewish traditional history of light and knowledge that sets out to explain the ancient Sumerian “Table of Destiny”, also called “The Book of Raziel”. The Cabala or Kabala must not be confused with the Kabbalah, a comparatively modern interpretation of the Hebrew texts that is based almost entirely on material values instead of setting out philosophical and mystical explanations of the texts in the manner adopted in the original treatises. The Cabala examines many complex subjects, including a detailed consideration of various esoteric interpretations of the Tetragrammaton. The English transliteration of the Tetragrammaton is equivalent to IHOH which, when read backwards and subdivided, forms the words Ho and Hi. This is considered by the Cabalists to be a very important transposition. The Hebrew words Ho and Hi respectively signify He and She, therefore mystically denoting both the male and the female aspects of the Creator, elsewhere represented in freemasonry by the point within a circle. The dual gender of the Creator has permeated all major religious systems since ancient times. All Hebrew names of God have one or more meanings and Ho-Hi is no exception, because as well as denoting the Male and Female Principle it also signifies an important attribute and another vital principle:


The Author of Time and the Arbiter of the Tide of Events; and

The Eternal and Absolute Principle of Creation and Destruction.


It is important to realise that the Names of God in Hebrew were almost entirely derived from the names of deities used by the various tribes and nationalities that lived in the Golden Crescent to the east of the Mediterranean Sea before the Israelites lived in Egypt. It also is important not to overlook the significant influence that the Egyptian culture had on the Hebrew culture during their sojourn of more than 400 years in Egypt prior to the Exodus. All of these aspects are examined in great detail by Laurence Gardner in his informative book Genesis of the Grail Kings, subtitled The Pendragon Legacy of Adam and Eve, which throws a great deal of light on many of the interpretations that have been discussed in this chapter.




It is interesting to compare the similarity in concept between the Mesopotamian tetrad or Heavenly Family of Father, Mother, Son and Daughter, respectively El, Ashtoreth, Ba’al and Anath, with the triad of the Egyptians comprising Osiris the Father, Isis the Mother and Horus the Son. However, the Hindu Trimurti of Brahma, Vishnu and Siva is quite different, because it projects three essential manifestations of the Being of God that are all male. In that regard the Hindu Trimurti is more akin to the comparatively recent Christian Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Ghost, which was only established as a doctrine by the Council of Nicea in 325 CE. Likewise the San-I or “the three ones” in Taoism and the Trikaya or “three bodies” in Buddhism are very similar in concept to the three-fold aspects of the deity that are embodied in the Hindu Trimurti and the Christian Trinity. All of those concepts, however, are significantly different from the perception of God as an absolute and indivisible unity, which is stressed in the Islamic belief in tawhid that emphasis the “Oneness of God”, as repeatedly proclaimed by the muezzin when calling Moslems to prayer.


The names of God in freemasonry


In the foregoing discussions all of the attributes and names of God are relevant in one or more branches of freemasonry. As in all religions and religiously oriented societies, freemasonry uses many different appellations when referring to God, some clearly referring to the craft as it was practised by operative free masons and others that are of a purely religious character. The similarity of the names used in the various religions and those used in freemasonry will be immediately evident. As every freemason must profess a belief in God, it logically follows that the blessing of God is invoked for the candidate at the beginning of each ceremony in which he is about to participate. The blessing of God is also invoked at the opening and closing of every meeting in a lodge, chapter, council or other masonic body. The name of God is also used when appropriate to the instructions being imparted in the ceremonies being worked. The appellation for God most frequently used in speculative craft freemasonry is the Great Architect of the Universe. Other appellations frequently used in various other branches of freemasonry include the Great Architect of Heaven and Earth, the Grand Geometrician of the Universe, the Grand Superintendent of the Universe, the Great Disposer of All, the Supreme High Priest of Heaven and Earth and the Sovereign of the Universe. The connotations of these descriptive titles and of the many others used are self-evident.

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