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THAT WHICH WAS LOST
by Morris I. Budkofsky PGM, MPS
In an attempt to write this paper on "The Lost Word" it is my desire simply to place the facts as I have found them at the disposal of my Masonic Brethren, that they may have the opportunity to give thought and reflect on the search of the "Lost Word," and its meaning.
In our Masonic Ritual we hear, "The Master's Word is lost in the death of G. M. H. A., but I will substitute a word which shall be adopted for the regulation of all Master Mason's Lodges until future ages shall find out the right." The first five words of the ritual, "The Master's Word is lost" are the fundamental principles of our Masonic ritual, yet they are passed over with little emphasis.
Is it possible that the word could have been "An instruction in spiritual knowledge whereby they could travel and work as such" or could the word have been a myth, so as to give a fuller meaning to life now and after being raised to the Sublime Degree of a Master Mason?
I am sure many a Masonic Brother, at one time or another has given some thought concerning the Lost Word and how he would receive it. If he is asked for "The Lost Word" he will reply that he has not as yet received it. So it is, to the Brother who never received the "Lost Word" I dedicate this paper in hopes "that while traveling upon the level of Time towards that Undiscovered Country from whose home no traveler returns," he may find that which was lost.
The "Lost Word" is the very basic science of Masonic Symbolism. We speak of it sometimes as "The Lord," sometimes as "The Secrets of a Master Mason," and sometimes as "That which is lost."
The meaning of the "Lost Word" for the operative Mason has a far different meaning than held by Speculative Masonry. In the following paragraphs, I will attempt to compare the meaning of the "Word" as it applies to the Operative as well as the Speculative Mason.
Man's endless search for knowledge is a quest for nobler deeds, higher thoughts and greater achievements and must inevitably result in progress of sort. So it is with the "Lost Word.."
Many a Mason has tried to phrase his words, his belief, his thoughts of what Masonry's "Lost Word" might be. Those who have tried the hardest have been the first to agree, that man has not yet invented the words by which to describe a concert so another can hear the sounds, or describe a flower so a blind man may see its color.
The "Word" common to early races held a prominent place in the Worship of the Children of Israel, The, "Word" was in King Solomon's time, held in such reverence that it could be pronounced but once a year on Yom Kippur, the Jewish New Year, and then only by the High Priest, and in a secluded place. If written or used on any other occasion throughout the year a substitute word had to be used in its place. The substitute word of "Ah-do-shern" (ie: Name of God) meaning God was adopted as the "Word" of the Children of Israel.
A singular coincidence, and worthy of thought, are the initials of Gomer, Oz, Daber in that the letters composing the English name of Deity should be the initials of the Hebrew words - Wisdom, Strength and Beauty. The translation is as follows and words for thought:
The expression, "The Word" when emphatically used is in Freemasonry and always synonymous with the Third Degree, although there must be a word in each Degree. In this latter and general sense, "The Word" is called by French Freemasons "La Parole," and by Germans "Ein Worterzeichen." The use of a Word is of great antiquity. We find it is the ancient Mysteries. In those of Egypt it is said to have been the "Tetragrammaton" (Tet-ra-gram-maton) meaning a word of four letters or the Mysterious and sacred Hebrew word of four consonants, transliterated YHWH JHWH, or JRVH, standing for the ineffable Name of God.
The Operative Masons in search of the "Lost Word" believed the word to be a syllable, a password, a token of sort, perhaps like many of our present day passwords. Possession of the "Word" symbolized divine wisdom for, at the building of King Solomon's Temple, there were Three Thousand, Three Hundred Masters or overseers of the work. Possession of the "Word" also was an indication that our ancient Speculative Brethren had freedom, as to be Masters of their time, their resources, and themselves. For "There must be wisdom to contrive, strength to support, and beauty adorn all great and important undertakings." It was during the Renaissance Period, following the War of Roses, in the 16th and 17th centuries, that societies became more lucrative and tended to become more so as time went on. Operative Masons were regarded with envy.
Fellowcrafts were desirous of the wages and privileges. Operative Masonry became most vulnerable when it was attacked from two sides, one from the cultured, influential classes, the other from below, the Fellowcrafts. The former had for many centuries been interested in the building science, but their past close association with the "Masters" caused them to use their influence to pressure admittance into the Guilds. The Fellowcrafts, taking full advantage of the situation of the craft, attained particularly some of the privileges of the Masters, but were never successful in learning the true meaning of the "Word."
That the cultured class was more successful than the Fellowcrafts in gaining the "Word" is most doubtful. In the early 1700S the so-called influential cultured class armed with their influence and knowledge gained complete control over the working guild; it is at this point in history where we begin to see a sharp division between Operative and Speculative Freemasonry (1725-1732). It was during this period of transformation that our ritual ' "as we know it today, was officially imposed and, although it carried the legend and the name of H.A., the "Word" itself was lost.
The modem development of Speculative Masonry into a philosophy of life has given a perfected form to the symbolism of the "Word" no longer used as a mode of recognition, but rather as a symbol of the basic philosophy of Freemasonry.
What then was the "Lost Word?"
What meaning did it hold for the Speculative Mason?
The Speculative Mason in search of the Lost Word must seek out his own individual meaning. So important is this Word, that it lies at the very foundation of masonry, it is what Dermott called "the root, heart and marrow of Masonry."
The ceremony of becoming a Master Mason makes no man any better than he was before, but the earnest endeavor to live by the beautiful teachings of Masonry cannot but help to make any man better for having asked. Thus, in our search for the "Lost Word," we learn to live a fuller and more meaningful life and, thus, leave the world a little better for our having had the privilege of passing through it.
No matter what was the "Word," no matter how or when it was lost, not why a substitute was provided, nor when or where it was recovered; these are all minor points of importance, necessary, it is true for knowing the legendary history, but not necessary for understanding the symbolism. The only term of the myth that is to be regarded with importance in the study of its meaning, is the abstract idea of a word which was lost and afterward found.
Mackey's Encyclopedia defines the "Lost Word" for the Speculative Mason as a symbol of the personal progress of candidate from his first initiation to the completion of his course,when he receives a full development of the Mysteries.
The Holy Bible defines the "Lost Word" as "The Meaning of Define Truth," symbolically speaking. This is what the old Writers claim and have reference to in the Ineffable (unspeakable) name. J. N. 1:1: "Man doth not live by bread only, but by every word produceth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live." D T 8:3-6.
As set forth in this paper, words or a word alone cannot describe what the I 'Lost Word" might be. The best that can be hoped for is a point of direction. Those Master Masons who make the search for the "Lost Word" a part of their everyday life may well come upon that which they seek. As our ancient brethren tried, so must we.
In conclusion, permit me to state that the lesson here for us is to st diligently for myth, and never to permit prejudice, passion or selfish interest to blind us. The "Word" must be revealed from within each of us, by practicing the principles of our Fraternity and understanding its teaching, not by mere words alone, but by emulation of "The Five Points of Fellowship" towards out fellow man.
The Masonic Brother in search of the "Lost Word" should not be on a hunt for a mystic term to be used like a magic spell. That for what he really searches is to discover the Divine Truth within himself. "While traveling upon the level of time towards that undiscovered Country from whose borne no traveler returns." No one could tell me where my Soul might be. I search for God, but God eludes me. I sought my Brother, and found all three.
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Last modified: March 22, 2014