An Historical and Masonic Explanation
by Lyle S. Evans, PGHP, Ohio
The Royal Arch Mason
VOL. X FALL, 1971
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God. In Him was Life and Life was the
Light of Man." - Gospel According to Saint John, 1:1,4
Many times, in the course of a study of the Chapter degrees,
have I asked myself the question, why, in the formation of
the degrees, and particularly the Royal Arch, did the
founders make the search for the "Word" the basis of their
work? What reason did they have for so doing? If the Bible
was the Great Light from which they worked, was there
anything in the Bible to account for this fact, or did the
reason therefor reach farther back in history than that
remarkable Book? Again, if the Bible, and history, did
contain the record of such a search, was there something
vital therein which would account for the prominence given it,
not only throughout the Chapter degrees, but many other
degrees of Masonry?
I fully believe that all of these questions should be answered
affirmatively, and that it is worth while to spend some time
and effort to answer the questions asked above.
I do not pretend that the matters here presented are original.
In fact, I will tell you that they are not, but are compilations
from the opinions of many great Masonic scholars,
historians, archaeologists and others. I will use some
quotations from their writings. I hope however, to interest
you in the subject, and to get those of you, who do not know
it, to take the time to become familiar with it. The subject is
worthy of study, and the results of that study will add much
to the interest in Masonry and particularly the Chapter
NEED FOR A NAME
When man first appeared on earth, many ages ago, he was
as the beasts. He had no knowledge, and only instinct and
hunger made him do certain necessary things. As time went
on, man from his experience, slowly learned other lessons.
He learned there was a sun, moon, the stars, that there was
heat and cold, and that certain things were good to eat and
others not. He learned to provide food for himself and his
family, and, in time, the use of fire, and how to form crude
implements. For all of these things, it was necessary to
supply a name, which he did.
There being in every man a need for religion to satisfy the
same, he deified many of the natural phenomena, and to
each of these he gave a name. To them he ascribed
passions, such as he had, and used means to propitiate his
gods, such as he would want done to himself. A ritual was
developed for services in honor of these gods, and a
priesthood was created to carry out that ritual. Necessarily
the members of the priesthood were of higher intelligence.
With the development of wealth and the growth of cities,
temples for the worship of the gods were built, and a ritual
was developed for services in the temples. With the growth
of cities and nations came kings. These later became
absolute monarchs, whose word meant life or death to the
people. Many nations had rulers who were a part of the
priesthood, or were under the control of that body.
Now each of these gods was given a name, in fact two or
more names. Some were used for the people, and the others
sacredly guarded by the priests. The same was true of the
It is necessary here to distinguish between names, as we
now know them, and as they were at that period of history.
We had then no given names for a person nor any surname
or family name. Your son or daughter would not bear your
name, but would be named for some important event, or for
some thing that the child might have done. It might have one
or more names depending upon the number of incidents of
importance in its life. The word name really was used in the
sense of fame or renown.
To cite some examples. The name Adam, the first man in
the world, simply means "man." Eve was so called because
the name means "living" and she was the mother of all living.
Cain means "lance" and as the lance was the means by
which game was secured the word had a secondary
meaning of "to get." Hence Eve called her son Cain because
she had begotten him. Abram's name means "exalted father"
because he was to be the father of a great nation. Later the
"h" was added to the middle of his name to make Abraham
which means the "father of a multitude."
Now the great mass of the people was ignorant. They had
no knowledge. They were intensely superstitious. The
priesthood had all of the then known knowledge. For the
purpose of keeping this knowledge within their ranks and to
keep the people interested in religion, there were developed
rituals of temple worship. A young man intending to become
a priest had to go through a long training and an initiation
before he could become a priest. The priesthood was a
closed corporation jealous of its rights.
Royalty was carefully guarded. Many of the kings claimed to
be descended from the gods, and to reign over their people
by direct command of the gods.
Now there was carefully fostered by the priesthood and
gradually developed among the people a belief that the
name of the king or the gods must not be spoken. It could be
used only by the priests in temple worship. The name of the
king must not be mentioned. If any one was guilty of the
offense of mentioning either the name of a god or of the
king, some terrible misfortune would come to him and his
NAMES WERE SECRET
It is but a step from this to the belief that the name of any
person must be carefully guarded. That to know a man's true
name was to give to the knower power over the person
whose name he knew. It might be the cause of one's death,
or might bring to him some serious loss. This belief among
the more primitive peoples still persists.
Because of this belief, most of the people had two names,
one which was in common use, and the other which was
sacredly guarded. It was generally believed that a man's
name was a part of himself, and had an important bearing on
his character. This belief was current among the Hebrews
and had considerable influence in the development of their
history. In fact this superstition was carried so far that there
are instances in which the true name was possessed only by
the parents of the child, for fear that if the child knew his real
name he might at some time reveal it to his hurt.
We all know the story of Samson and Delilah. Delilah
persuaded Samson to reveal to her his true name. The belief
as to the power possessed by one who knew your name was
not limited to one nation, but was common to all. In Egypt it
caused the Pharaohs to build for themselves two tombs. In
one, the mummy was placed and in the other the Ka or other
This superstition went further. It was also believed that if any
one knew the true name of one of the gods, or of the king,
either could be compelled to do the bidding of the one who
knew the name. All that was necessary was that the name
be pronounced with a request for whatever was desired and
it would be forthcoming.
The legendary history of the various nations is full of stories
of this type. It is the source of many of the fairy stories now
read to our children. Read the Arabian Nights. Solomon
subdued the rebellious genii by pronouncing the name of
Allah. The Arabian Knight performed prodigies of valor by
means of a Sword on which was inscribed the name of Allah.
From this it may be seen that the human race, during the
period we are talking of, believed that knowledge of the true
name of a man or god carried with it great power for good or
evil. Therefore great care was used to preserve the
knowledge of the true name from those not entitled to it. It
was therefore a common heritage of all peoples and nations
of the world at the time of the rise of the Jews as a nation.
At this time Egypt was the richest and most powerful nation
and occupied the valley of the Nile, with some holdings in
Syria. The valley of the Euphrates also was the seat of
several powerful kingdoms.
Ur, the city from which Abraham came, lay in the valley of
the Euphrates, and, at that time, the river ran close to it. It
was a city of culture and of great wealth. Recent excavations
have brought to light much of interest. There was a
magnificent temple to its god, Nannar, the moon god. It had
a currency, a banking system, schools, and a written
language. Its houses were well constructed of sun dried
brick. And, for that era, the kingdom covered a lame territory.
Besides the pantheon of gods worshipped in the main
temple, each household had its own family god, like the
Among the people living in this city, were certain families of
Semitic origin. It was from one of these that Abraham came.
Abraham or "Abram" as he was then known, grew to
manhood in this city, and its culture had a great influence on
his later life, and also on the Jewish people.
The Bible tells us Abraham received a call to leave Ur and
with his father and his family departed to take up the life of a
nomad or wandering shepherd and in time to become the
founder of a mighty nation. Abraham was a monotheist and
the household god of his family was the symbol first used by
Abraham to represent the Great Jehovah.
The story of the growth of the Jews as a nation need not
here be told, but it might be well to mention several things
that influenced the development of the nation and the
First, the Jews lived on the caravan routes between Egypt
and the East and constantly met the people traveling back
Secondly, the Jews at several times lived in Egypt. Under
Joseph, they held positions of importance and frequently
Third, the territory in which the Jews lived was for many
years a tributary province of Egypt and later of Babylon.
Fourth, the Jews married at times with idolatrous peoples
and their kings as well as the people were led from the
worship of the true God.
All of these things not only influenced the nation as such, but
had its effect upon their religion. It must be remembered that
the early history of the Jews was not written, it was only oral
tradition. It seems now to be reasonably certain that the first
books of the Bible were not reduced to writing until the time
of the Babylonish captivity. It is but natural that oral tradition
during this long period of time would have been influenced
by the great changes in the life and standards of the people.
EARLY JEWISH CUSTOM
That the custom of keeping sacred and holy the name of
their God should have been adopted by the Jews is but
natural. It could not be otherwise. The Bible contains
passage after passage having reference to the "Name" and
the reverence due to it.
Now as to the loss of the "Word." This is furnished by
Masonic tradition. There are two traditions. One was that
Enoch under command of the Most High God built a vault of
nine arches, in the lowest of which the "Name" was placed
on a triangular plate of gold, that at the time of the flood this
was lost and was not found until David began digging the
foundations of the new Temple. The other is the more
familiar one, which you all know.
These stories do not coincide, nor do they agree with the
Biblical narrative. The Bible tells us that the "Name" was
given to Moses, while in the wilderness, when the Lord
spoke to Moses from the midst of the burning bush:
"Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel: Jehovah, the
God of your Fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac and of
Jacob hath sent me unto you. This is my Name forever, and
this is my memorial unto all generations."
"I am Jehovah, and I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac
and unto Jacob by the name of El Shaddai, but by my Name
Jehovah was I not known unto them."
It is not necessary for Masonic purposes or for the purpose
of this paper that tradition and the Bible be reconciled. But
you will now say, how is it that the Word is lost? We have it
twice set forth in the Bible. Masonic tradition gives you a
very good reason why the Word was lost. I will go back into
history and try and give to you another.
The ancient manuscripts of the Bible were written in several
languages, among them the Hebrew. Originally the Hebrew
language was written without vowels, or anything to
represent vowel sounds, until much later than the period we
are now discussing. At that later time so-called points were
used to indicate vowel sounds. The letters used were only
consonants, such as we now see used in our rituals. Hence
unless one knew the correct vowels to use, the "Name"
could not be read or pronounced correctly, and it was lost.
This is what happened. When it happened is another
LOSS OF THE WORD
It may have happened as told in Masonic tradition. Yet we
feel certain the "Word" was used during the time the First
Temple was standing. The ceremonies of the Most Excellent
Degree would so indicate. The loss may have occurred
during one of the periods when King Solomon reverted to
idolatry. Or the loss may have been during the reigns of any
of the many weak kings that succeeded Solomon and before
the destruction of the Temple. Certainly, if not before, it
occurred at the time the Temple was burnt. We are at a loss
to know which is correct.
At least the true pronunciation was lost and remained buried
until the building of the new Temple, when we are told that it
was found. Whether our ritual is or is not correct at this point
is not important. We are told it was found.
The Jews used in the Bible a number of names for Deity. In
the English version they have been translated in different
forms depending upon the sense in which the word was
used. The study of why and how the "Name" has been
translated is not here important. We do know however that
the Jews were forbidden to pronounce the true name God,
and that, only the High Priest might do so. How and when
this was done is familiar to you.
After Moses received the "Name," it was kept in the Ark in a
sacred place, until such time as a permanent place could be
secured. When the Jews had occasion to use the "Name,"
they would substitute for it the word "Adonay." The Word
when it appeared in their Scriptures was never spoken.
God promised the Israelites that they would have a
permanent home in the Land of Promise and that He would
deposit His name in a permanent place. This place would
then become sacred and a center of worship for the people
and they were to consider this place as God's dwelling place.
As we know Jerusalem became the place for the erection of
the Temple, in which was placed the Ark, the place of
We have now advanced to a point where it is not necessary
to our religion that there be such secrecy, or that the "Name"
be known to only a few, but we do hold the "Name" in
reverence, and we do expect that those who pronounce it
always do so with reverence in their hearts.
Having now shown why we have a "Name," how it was lost
and later found, may we now seek the reason why this has
been incorporated in the Masonic degrees and particularly
the Royal Arch.
I will not attempt here to give a history of the Chapter
degrees. This has been done before.
When Masonry changed from its operative form to a
speculative system, it became necessary to incorporate in
the several degrees a lesson, or lessons, that would be of
interest to the Craft and which would assist the members in
their moral and spiritual life. Where in all history or literature
was there anything more worthy of that place than the story
of the loss and recovery of the "Word." Surely there can not
be anything more uplifting.
In the words of Com. Joseph E. Morcombe:
"What, then, is this Word - what underlies the paradox of that
which is forever being lost and yet forever found? It is the
secret of the ages and the revelation of all recorded time. It
is the indwelling dream of the mystic, the deepest thought of
the philosopher, the ecstatic vision of the poet and the
passionate speech of the prophet. Men of the Old Aryan
race knew its accents in the earthly paradise beyond the
Himalayas. The priest of Egypt whispered it in the ears of the
dying as he passed to the judgment hall of Osiris. It was
given to Moses in the thunders of Sinai and it found softer
speech in the words of One who called the children to Him in
old Judea. It is the monopoly of no age, for it abides in
ancient tradition and abounds in the latest developments of
science. It is confined to no creed, no school of philosophy.
The savage, bowing to his idol, strives to pronounce it and
he whose loftiest intellectual flight is aided by
heaven-pinioned Faith halts in its utterance. It is, in short,
that portion of Absolute Truth which every man must seek
and find for himself-that individual revelation from the
Unerring and the All-Good."
Do you wonder that we make the search a part of the ritual?
Or that we spend our lives in a search for such a worthy
THE WORD IN MASONRY
The "Word" is found in some form in every degree in
Masonry, and there is an inner explanation of every Masonic
symbol which centers on a hidden Divine Word, which can
only be found by the pure in heart after a diligent search,
because it is not open to the superficial seeker. He may
deny its existence, but either openly or in some cryptic
message it is always present.
The candidate approaching the door of the Entered
Apprentice lodge is in darkness, and receives light but par-
tially upon his admission. He has however, laid the first
stone in his Masonic edifice and receives some important
knowledge upon which he may begin to build. In the Fellow
Craft degree, he receives further instruction, particularly in
the arts and sciences as applied to Masonry. In the Master's
degree, he learns many thing of importance and is given a
"substitute" word, with the information that a further search
will well repay the time and effort. To the true seeker for
knowledge there is no rest here. Study and time must be
taken to assimilate the lessons presented and to conform his
manner of life to meet their requirements. He then goes on
and in the next degree, there is presented to him "a white
stone, and in that stone a new name written, which no man
knoweth save him that receiveth it." Then in the Most
Excellent Master's degree he sees the culmination of the
dream of the Jews; their Temple, with its magnificent
furnishings; its altar; its Holy of Holies and the acceptance of
this structure by the Most High God. Lastly comes the Royal
Arch, the topmost pinnacle of his search and with it the
fulfillment of the promise long ago made.
THE MASON MUST BE WORTHY
No man worthy of the "Name" can pass through these
degrees without trying to make of himself something better.
He must strive to conquer his faults and take unto himself
the qualities which make a perfect man.
The Brahmans have a system whereby in introspection they
hope to realize a state of perfection. They shut themselves
off from the world and hope by intense thought to conquer
self. No doubt this may help the individual but it is a selfish
plan, and does not conform to our system of going out in the
world as Master Masons to teach the uninformed, and to
spread abroad a knowledge of the Craft. The Brahman, as
well as many other systems of theology, is for the individual
and not for others. It is not a true search for the Lost Word.
The search means that we must seek to make ourselves
worthy of the "Name," that we must remake our souls.
How challenging, how significant, how eloquent of many
deep things of the soul, is this ancient search for the Divine
Word, being as it is humanity's unconscious confession that
in some manner it has lost out of its heart something holy
and sacred and fine; that the great enterprise of life must be
to recover the "Ineffable Name," and that if a man pursues
the quest, he may, at last, find his way to that hallowed Holy
of Holies where he may hear its mystic syllables. Strip the
quest, as you may, of all its mythologies and baseless
traditions, deprive it even of any historical basis at all, it will
remain for us as the very symbol of man's age long search
for God. What a search that has been!
THE WORD IS GOD!
Through the hills and valleys of years, through the days and
nights of history, through wars and through peace, through
life and through death, the human soul, unconquered,
undismayed, holding fast to its native idealism, has been
seeking through the shadows and the mists for that Lost
Word which is God.
Thus it is that the ancient secret is, after all, an open secret,
available to him who will make the quest and pay the price,
for the "Word" is very near to you even in the heart. There is
a spirit at the center of the soul which stands ready
whenever you give Him free course with you to manifest the
Divine Name, even that Lost Word which must forever
remain lost to the worldly, to the selfish, the vain and the
impure. But it may be found any day and any place by the
simple, the innocent and the childlike or to those who
sincerely desire to find it. It is an ideal for which we must
search and if we earnestly seek to make ourselves worthy of
that ideal, we will find the Lost Word.
Can we now wonder why the Royal Arch Degree is as it is,
or why it was made the principal degree of Masonry?
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