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Anchor & Ark

by Ed Halpaus
Grand Lodge Education Officer
Grand Lodge of A. F. & A. M. of Minnesota

“I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me." Isaac Newton 1642-1727

“You’re all ready to handle honesty and truth and justice and the whole duty of man.” George Bernard Shaw, (1856-1950) in act 3 of Major Barbara 1907

It is said in the third section of the lecture of the third degree that Masonry has many emblems and of those 8 of them are monitorial: Monitorial meaning to advise or to teach a lesson. Of the 8 Masonic Emblems there are two emblems that are listed as one; the Anchor and the Ark.

These emblems are reminiscent of Noah’s Ark, and the Anchor he had as a piece of equipment on this famous ship. Here is what the portion of the lecture in Minnesota has to say: “The Anchor and Ark are emblems of a well-grounded hope, and a well-spent life. They are emblematical of that divine ark which safely wafts us over this tempestuous sea of troubles, and that anchor which shall safely moor us in a peaceful harbor, where the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary shall find rest.”

Just as an aside, on the word ‘emblematical’ above. For many of us who are involved in degree work the words emblematic and emblematical can be confusing as to which one should be used. As I understand it emblematic is used when we’re speaking of one item and emblematical when we’re speaking of more than one item. Thus emblematical is plural for emblematic.

Back to the Anchor and Ark; they are symbols of hope, (anchor,) and safety or refuge. (ark.) A good Bible reference to read is Hebrews 6:18 & 19, and a good translation to use, I think, is the New Living Translation, (NLT,) because, it seems to me, it is easier to understand. “18: So God has given us both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can take new courage, for we can hold on to his promise with confidence. 19: This confidence is like a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain of heaven into God’s inner sanctuary.”

The anchor was an early Christian symbol of hope prior to being adopted as a symbol in Masonry. The early Christians looked upon life as a stormy voyage and as voyagers they were glad when it was over, arriving in safe port. When the anchor was carved in the stone over a tomb it signified the confidence that he who slept beneath had reached the haven of eternal rest.[i]

The Ark of refuge is to Masons a symbol of divine protection from evil and turbulent forces; the selfish desires and debasing passions which can befall a man.

The Anchor and Ark need to be considered together because the anchor presupposes a ship. This symbol teaches us that life is a voyage on a stormy sea, and as it says in the lecture it will safely carry us to the harbor where the anchor will safely moor us. “The Ark is a retreat from the storms of life, while the anchor is our stay of security.”[ii]

So it is Noah’s Ark which the founders of the Masonic Ritual joined with the Anchor to symbolize a well-grounded hope and a well-spent life, and the explanation of the symbolism can be found in the Great Light of Masonry.

From the explanation of the scripture quoted above; the Zondervan Life Application Study Bible says in part: “Because God is truth you can be secure in his promises; you don’t need to wonder if he will change his plans. Our hope is secure and immovable, anchored in God, just as a ship anchor holds firmly to the seabed. To the true seeker who comes to God in belief, God gives an unconditional promise of acceptance.”

“Take short views, hope for the best, and trust in God.” Reverend Sydney Smith 1771-1845

How True
A Poem, by Bro. Anse Cates

Oh, yes, we are all Craftsmen
And very proud to be;
We wear our pins and rings
For everyone to see.
But let us pose the question,
Even though the thought
May sting.
Would you know me for a Mason,
If you did not see the ring?
True we show Tenets of our
Ancient hallowed creed.
Not just on coat and finger,
But by words and deed.
There’s one thing to remember,
If I’ve learned my lesson well
My deeds do more convincing
Than my finger or lapel.

“Go, soul, the body’s guest, upon a thankless arrant: Fear not to touch the best; thy truth shall be thy warrant.” From Sir Walter Ralegh’s poem “The Lie” (1552-1618) in 1581 he changed the way he spelled his name from Raleigh to Ralegh. Knighted in 1584

From the Great light of Masonry = “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” Proverbs 16:24 NIV

[i] Mackey’s Encyclopedia of Freemasonry Volume 1 Hughan edition 1927
[ii] Masonic concordance of the Holy Bible 394D

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Last modified: March 22, 2014