The compasses being set at 60°, thus allude to the equilateral triangle, and, if the two points were united by a straight line, one would be formed. There can be but little doubt that it was the equilateral triangle itself which our ancient brethren placed upon the altar, since it was upon that emblem their most solemn obligations were taken. In modern times the compasses, set at an angle of 60°, have been substituted. This may have been done purposely, or it may be that, during the dark ages, some of our ignorant mechanical brethren mistook the sacred emblem for one of their working-tools, and that the change was thus brought about. Other mistakes equally as singular, as will be seen in the sequel, were thus made at that period.
The angle of 60° has also an allusion to the zodiac, being equal to two signs thereof, and, if multiplied by the sacred number three, becomes 180°, or the dimensions of the Royal Arch.
Again, if a circle of any size be drawn, a chord of 60° of that circle will be equal to its radius, and the compasses so set will divide the circumference into six equal parts. The points thus made, taken with the one in the center, constitute the mystic number seven. The six exterior points, if joined by six straight lines, will form a perfect hexagon within a circle, one of the perfect figures. Or, if we unite these six points in another way, we have the double equilateral triangle, in union with the symbol of "a point within a circle."
This was one of the most sacred of all the emblems of Pythagoras, and is also known even to this day through the whole East, and has been there revered for ages, as the SEAL OF King Solomon, by the power of which he bound fast the genii and other spirits who rebelled against God. (See "Arabian Nights," and the story of the "Fisherman and the Genius" for an expression of this belief.) If the whole seven points be joined by straight lines, we obtain the figure of a perfect cube within a perfect sphere. (See "Historical Landmarks," Lecture V, and notes.) The cube has in all ages been held sacred.
All altars were in the form of a cube, or double cube, which last is the form that ancient custom prescribed for the masonic altar. The ancients esteemed the double cube "holy," but the perfect cube was "most holy." We also read in the Scriptures that the house of God, which King Solomon built, was in the form of a double cube, being forty cubits long and twenty cubits broad (1 Kings 6). The holy palace itself was a perfect cube, being twenty cubits each way (2 Chron. 3:8). According to the teachings of Pythagoras, also, the cube was the most sacred of all the perfect bodies. From what has been said, the deep emblematic significance of the masonic altar, or double cube, upon which was anciently placed the equilateral triangle, or sacred symbol of Deity, is sufficiently apparent. To this we have in modern times, with great propriety, added, as having a corresponding place upon our altar, the holy Scriptures, the inestimable gift of a later period, the blessing of its possession having been denied to our ancient brethren, from whom, however, was not withheld a knowledge of the true God; but the holy Bible, as we possess it, was not only unknown to Plato and Pythagoras, but also to King Solomon, the wisest of mankind.
The Emblem of Ears of Corn Hanging by a WaterFord, or a Sheaf of Wheat by a River
Q. One of the most expressive and beautiful emblems of the fellow-craft degree is the representation of "ears of corn hanging by a waterford," or, as the emblem is also often represented, "a sheaf of wheat suspended near the bank of a river." (See Sickles's Monitor," page 90.) What is the meaning of this emblem?
A. Dr. Oliver devotes the whole of Chapter XIX of his "Landmarks" to the consideration of this emblem. It appears that there is, or was, some confusion as to its true meaning. Some old masons seem to think it refers to the first passage of the river Jordan by the Israelites under Joshua, when they entered Canaan; at which time the promised land was covered over by fields of ripe corn, which was by them then assumed as a symbol of the PLENTY which gladdened the hearts of the famished Israelites after their forty years' wandering in the desert. Another interpretation of the symbol, which Dr. Oliver gives in full, refers to a passage in the life of Jephthah, recorded in Judges xii, by which we learn that the Ephraimites quarreled with him, A bloody battle followed, and the Ephraimites were defeated. Jephthah took possession of the passages of the
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