TWELVE POINTS OF LIGHT
FROM THE 12 TRIBES OF ISRAEL
by Ronald Holder, PM
"There are in Masonry," say the ancient lectures, "twelve original points
which form the basis of the system, and comprehend the whole ceremony of
initiation. Without the existence of these points, no man ever was, or can
legally and essentially received into the Order. Every person who is made a
must go through all these twelve forms and ceremonies, not only in the first
degree, but in every subsequent one." Esteeming these points of the highest
importance in the ceremonies of the Order, our ancient brethren exercised
great ingenuity in giving them symbolical explanations, and refer the twelve
of the ceremony of initiation to the twelve tribes of Israel.
Notwithstanding the value and importance our ancient brethren deemed theses
possess, the Grand Lodge of England thought proper, at the Union in 1813, to
them from its rituals, and substitute three "new" points. Neither of these
systems has ever been practiced in this country; the "four" perfect points"
constitute an adequate substitute for either. The symbolism embraced in the
explanation of the "Twelve Grand Points" may not be uninteresting or
unacceptable to the reader.
1. The opening of the Lodge was symbolized by the tribe of Reuven (Reuben),
because he was the first born of his father Jacob, who called him "the
beginning of his strength," the door, as it were, by which the children of
entered the world. He was, therefore, appropriately adopted as the emblem of
that ceremony which is essentially the beginning of every initiation.
2. The preparation of the candidate was symbolized by the tribe of Simeon,
because Simeon prepared the instruments for the slaughter of the Shechemites,
which excited the heavy displeasure of his parent; and therefore, to
abhorrence of his cruelty, candidates for initiation were deprived of all
weapons, both offensive and defensive. Remember from the scriptures, Shechem
violated the chastity of Simeon's sister, Dinah, and with his brother Levi,
killed the Shechemites during the third day of recovery from their
This is a period of time, when the male organ is most sensitive when
circumcised as an adult.
3. The report of the Senior Deacon referred to the tribe of Levi, in
commemoration of the signal or report which Levi was supposed to have given
brother Simeon when they assailed the men of Shechem at a time when they were
incapable of defending themselves, and put them all to the sword, because of
affront which, Dinah, their sister, had received from Shechem, the son of
4. The entrance of the candidate into the Lodge was symbolized by the tribe
of Judah, because they were the first to cross the river Jordan and enter the
promised land of "milk and honey," coming from the darkness and servitude, as
it were, of the wilderness by many dangerous and wearisome journeys into the
light and liberty of Canaan.
5. The prayer was symbolized by Zevulun (Zebulun), because the blessing and
prayer of Jacob were given to Zevulun, in preference to his brother Issachar.
6. The circumambulation referred to the tribe of Issachar, because, as a
thriftless and indolent tribe, they required a leader to advance them to an
elevation with the other tribes.
7. The advancing to the altar was symbolized by the tribe of Dan, that the
candidate might be taught by contrast to advance in the way of truth and
holiness as rapidly as this tribe advanced to idolatry, for it was among the
Dan that the serpent was first set up for adoration.
8. The obligation referred to the tribe of Gad, in allusion to the solemn vow
which was made by Jephthah, Judge of Israel, who was of that tribe.
9. The entrusting of the candidate with the mysteries was symbolized by the
tribe of Asher, because he was then presented with the rich fruits of Masonic
knowledge, as Asher was said to be the inheritor of fatness and royal
10. The investiture of the lambskin, by which the candidate is declared free,
referred to the tribe of Naphtali, which was invested by Moses with a
peculiar freedom, when he said, "O, Naphtali, satisfied with favor and full
blessing of the Lord, possess thou the West and the South."
11. The ceremony of the northeast corner of the Lodge referred to Joseph,
because as this ceremony reminds us of the most superficial part of Masonry,
the two half tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, of which the tribe of Joseph was
composed, were accounted to be more superficial than the rest, as they were
descendants of the grandsons only of Jacob.
12. The closing of the Lodge was symbolized by the tribe of Benjamin, who was
the youngest of the sons of Jacob, and thus closed his father's strength.
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