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Escape to Joppa

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

“The high-minded man must care more for the truth than for what people think.” Aristotle

“The man who fears no truths has nothing to fear from lies.” Sir Francis Bacon

“Ah yes, truth. Funny how everyone is always asking for it but when they get it they don't believe it because it's not the truth they want to hear.” Helena Cassadine

Escape to Joppa

Many Masons are extremely interested in learning about the ritual of Freemasonry, not necessarily the memorizing of it but, the story behind it[i] and how it came to be a part of Masonry. I am one who thoroughly enjoys this area of study about Freemasonry. I have thought about this particular article for quite some time, before attempting to begin writing about it, thinking it would be too difficult to summarize for a short article, but I’m giving it a try.

[Before going further, I would like to comment on my understanding of the word Masonry, and why I capitalize it, or at least try to remember to do so. Possibly you might have heard someone say that when they hear the word mason or masonry they think of people and companies that work as cement contractors. Indeed when we see an ad or a pick-up truck for a cement contractor we will, in all likelihood, see the word masonry as part of the name of the company, and they do employ masons. It is my belief that the word masonry as it is used in the building trades is not to be capitalized when Masonic Students write about Freemasonry. However, it is my opinion that such students should capitalize Masonry when we’re writing about the Masonic Fraternity.]

Getting back to symbolism and the story or meaning behind some of the ritual of Masonry I am always amazed at how the Masons who devised the ritual of our fraternity included such profound lessons, and how we can study and learn from what they put together so many centuries ago. This study of Freemasonry is truly something we can enjoy studying for a lifetime. These lessons have some basis, which we can trace them to as well. For instance, in a part of the Hiramic Legend we learn that three certain workmen traveled from King Solomon’s Temple to Joppa in an attempt to escape the country. What we may not realize is that this part of the legend is patterned after a story in the Old Testament of the Great Light of Masonry.

In reading in a Masonic Bible[ii] there is a reference as to where to look for information on the flight to Joppa;[iii] there is a note pointing the reader to the book of Jonah: In a portion of the story about Jonah God told him to go to Nineveh, but not wanting to go Jonah ‘rose up to flee unto Tarshish;’ (to escape the country, and not do what he was bid to do.) He did go to Joppa where he found a ship about to sail for Tarshish, and he obtained passage; you know the story, but if you’d like to refresh your recollection of it, just go to the book of Jonah in the Great Light of Masonry. Jonah’s story is not identical to the Hiramic Legend, but that is where the basis of a part of it comes from: In the Biblical Study Notes[iv] regarding this part of Jonah’s story we learn that Tarshish could mean ‘any number of Phoenicia’s western ports. Nineveh was towards the east. Jonah decided to go as far west as he could’ in his escape. The commentary further says that it might have been because of fear, or maybe anger, that made Jonah attempt to run from God, ‘but running got him into worse trouble.’ The similarity to a part of our ritual is easy to relate to.

As Brother Tucker says in his book “The Lost Key” - “there is a wealth of detail in this drama [the Hiramic Legend] which cannot be gone into without practically writing out the legend itself.” Because of this I will take some shortcuts where possible; every Freemason will be able to fill in the blanks where necessary.

In the legend the three ruffians who were guilty of ‘this horrid crime’ represent the false leadership of ignorance. Such false leadership consists of Ignorance; Selfishness and Sensuality: The third, Sensuality, is a reference made by Brother Prentice Tucker regarding Adam and Eve, and the three yielding to temptation.[v] He ties this to our slain Grand Master by saying that he is the ‘conscious touch’ with the spiritual i.e. our divine self. When man’s lower nature (represented by ruffians) kills spiritual consciousness this prevents the consciousness from drawing any more designs.[vi]

The victim in the story symbolized the ‘intuitive’ or ‘conscious touch’ with the divine;[vii] the rubbish of the Temple represents the ills, mistakes, and sins of the personality. In the legend, before the body was found by those searching for truth, the body was removed to another place for re-burial in a deeper and more seclude place to prevent the possibility of its revival; this represents blind obedience to false beliefs. The Acacia or evergreen represents the truth that will prevail. [In a way, similar to a certain text in scripture recited in the lecture of the first degree, it is through seeking that the victim’s remains are found, which represents finding the truth.]

Attempts to raise it from its grave are made; the Entered Apprentice cannot raise the intuitive power, nor is the knowledge of the Fellow Craft sufficient to do the job, because it takes more than mere knowledge of the moral law to accomplish such a task. It is the Lion’s Paw, the zodiacal sign of Leo, the symbol of the heart and love[viii] that raises the murdered intuitive power and divine self. Love is the fulfilling of the law and this is symbolized by the Trowel and the Lion’s Paw: “Nothing will restore man to his pristine condition of purity and intuitive knowledge of the spiritual law except perfect obedience to the law, which is embodied in service.” “It is this service to humanity and to Deity, this service which goes beyond the mere obedience to law that alone can restore the intuition or the touch with the spiritual.”[ix] “Unfortunately it is not often that the body is so raised, for our desire for truth is usually but dim and our service but perfunctory.”[x]

Finally, the ship the three are seeking passage upon represents a mental vehicle by which they can travel to a place to excuse themselves and their actions, (this is indeed a vain hope.) Ethiopia represents their erroneous view of a higher plane of being.

“Tolerance is the eager and glad acceptance of the way along which others seek the truth.” - Sir Walter Besant

From the Great light of Masonry = “For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the spirit is life and peace.” Romans 8:6 NASB

“Truth is always exciting. Speak it, then; life is dull without it.” Pearl S. Buck

[i] The ritual itself is an allegory; the lesson of it is to be found through further study.

[ii] Heirloom Bible Publishers of Wichita, KS - Master Mason edition

[iii] Jonah 1:3

[iv] Tyndale Life Application Study Bible

[v] The Lost key by Prentice Tucker 1927 edition

[vi] ibid

[vii] This has been described by H. Emilie Cady in her book Lessons in Truth as the divine self, as opposed to the human self, which seeks its own gratification at the expense of someone else.

[viii] The Lost key by Prentice Tucker 1927 edition

[ix] ibid

[x] Ibid

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Last modified: March 22, 2014