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ABRAHAM, ANTOINE FIRMIN.
A Freemason who made himself notorious at Paris, in the beginning of the nineteenth century, by the manufacture and sale of false Masonic diplomas and by trading in the higher degrees, from which traffic he reaped for some time a plentiful harvest. The Supreme Council of France declared, in 1811, all his diplomas and charters void and deceptive. He is the author of L'Art du Tuileur, dédié à tous les Maçons des deux hémisphéres, French for The Art of the Tiler, dedicated to all the Freemasom of the two hemispheres, a small volume of 20 pages, octavo, printed at Paris in 1804, and he published from 1800 to 1808 a periodical entitled Le Miroir de la vérité, dédié à tous les Maçons, French for The Mirror of Truth, dedicated to all the Freemasom, 3 volumes, octavo. This contains many interesting details concerning the history of Freemasonry in France. In 1811 there was published at Paris a Circulaire du Conseil Supréme du 33e degré, etc., relative à la vente, par le Sieur Abraham de grades et cahiers Maçonniques; French, meaning A Circular from the Supreme Council of the Thirty-third Degree, etc., relative te the sale by the Mr. Abraham of Masonic information in books and grades. This announcement, in octavo, sixteen pages, shows that Abraham was nothing else but a Masonic fraud.
Basilides, the head of the Egyptian sect of Gnosties, taught that there were seven outflowings, emanations, or aeons, from the Supreme God ; that these emanations engendered the angels of the highest order; that these angels formed a heaven for their habitation, and brought forth other angels of a nature inferior to their own ; that in time other heavens were formed and other angels created, until the whole number of angels and their respectìve heavens amounted to 365, which were thus equal to the number of days in a year; and, finally, that over all these an omnipotent Lord-inferior, however, to the Supreme God - presidented, whose name was Abraxas. Now this word Abraxas, in the numerical force of its letters when written in Greek, ABPAZAE, amounts to 365 the number of worlds in the Basilidean system,as wel as the number of days in the year thus A,1...,B,2..,P,100...,A,1...,Z,60...,A,1...,E 200 = 365. The god Abraxas was therefore a type or symbol of the year, or of the revolution of the earth around the sun. This mystieal reference of the name of a god to the annual period was familiar to the ancients, and is to be found in at least two other instances. Thus, among the Persians the letters of the name of the god Mithras, and of Belenus alnong the Gauls, alnounted each to 365.
E = 5
I = 10
O = 9
A = 1
Z = 200 = 365
B = 2
A = 30
E = 5
N = 50
O = 70
Z = 200= 365
There have been many guesses and beliefs among the learned as to the source of the word Abrazas.
Beausobre, in his History of Manicheism, volume 2, derives it from the Greek, A..........., signifying the magnificent Savior, He who heals and preserves.
Bellermann, Essay on the Gems of the Ancients, supposed it to be compounded of three Coptic words signifying the holy word of bliss. Pignorius and Vandelin think it is composed of four Hebrew and three Greek letters, whose numerical value is 365, and which are the initials of the sentence: saving man by wood, that is, the Cross.
Stones on which the word Abrazas and other devices are engraved, and which were used by the Egyptian Gnosties as amulets.
Attendance on the communications of his Lodge, on al convenient occasions, is considered as one of the duties of every Freemason, and hence the Old Charges of 1722 say that ''in ancient Times no Master or Fellow could be absent from it [the Lodge] especially when warn'd to appear at it, without incurring a severe censure, until it appear'd to the Master and Wardens that pure Necessity hinder'd him."
At one time it was usual to enforce attendance by fines, and the By-Laws of the early Lodges contain lists of fines to be imposed for absence, swearing and drukenness, but that usage is now discontinued, so that attendance on ordinary communications is no longer enforced by any sanction of law.
Attendance is a duty the discharge of which must be left to the conscientious convictions of every Freemason. In the ease, however, of a positive summons for any express purpose, such as to stand trial, to show cause, ete., the neglect or refusal to attend might be construed into a contempt, to be dealt with according to its magnitude or character in each particular case.
The abcence of an officer is a far more important matter and it is now generally held in the case of the absence of the Worshipful Master or Wardens the inferior officer assumes the duties of the office that is vacant The Wardens, as wel as the Master, are entrusted with the government of the Lodge and in the case of the absence of the Master at the time of opening, the Senior Warden, if present and, if not, then the Junior Warden may open the Lodge and the business transacted will be, regular and legal.
While this is the practice in the United States of Ameriea, the same rule is not followed under the Grand Lodge of England, where it is provided in Rule 141 of the Book of Conslitulions that in the absence of the Worshipful Master the Immediate Past Master shall take the chair. In the event that the Immediate Past Master is not present, then the Senior Past Master of the Lodge or, if no Past Masters of the Lodge are in attendance, the Senior Past Master who is a subscribing member of the Lodge shall officiate. But failing all of these, then we have the Senior Warden or, in his absence, the Junior Warden shall rule and govern the Lodge, but shall not occupy the Master's chair and no degree can be conferred unless a Master or Past Master in the Craft presides at the ceremony.
Thus it will be seen that the general rule does not apply to both countries in the same way.
ABSENCE OF WORSHIPFUL MASTER.
Rule 141 of the English Book of Constitutions states that the Immediate Past Master or in his absence the Senior Past Master of the Lodge, or, if no Past Master of the Lodge be present, the Senior Past Master who is a subscribing member of the Lodge shall take the chair. Failing all of these the Senior Warden, or, if he is absent, the Junior Warden, is to rule the Lodge, but without occupying the Master's chair. No initiation is to take place or Degree be conferred unless a Master or Past Master in the Craft occupies the chair. In the United States, however, especially where many Candidates await their Degrees, the custom has developed for the Worshipful Master at his pleasure to place in the chair temporarily any Brother in his judgment competent to properly give the ritualistic work.
A Lodge at Adis-Ababa was constituted by the 'Grand Orient of France on October 20, 1909.
An interesting and important symbol in Freemasonry. Botanically, it is the acacia vera of Tournefort, and the mimosa nilotica of Linnaeus, called babul tree in India. The acacia arabica grew abundantly in the vicinity of Jerusalem, where it is still to be found, and is familiar in its modern use at the tree from which the gum arabic of commerce is derived.
Oliver, it is true,'says that "there is not the smallest trace of any tree of the kind growing so far north as Jerusalem" (Landmarks, volume 2, page 1490). But this statement is refuted by the authority of Lieuten.ant Lynch, who saw it growing in great abundance in Jericho, and still farther north (Expedition to the Dead Sea, page 262).
The Rabbi Joseph Schwarz, who is excellent authority, says: "The Acacia (Shittim) tree, Al Sunt, is found in Palestine of different varieties ; it looks like the Mulberryv tree, attains a great height, and has a hard wood. The gum which is obtained from it is the gum arabic" (Descriptive Geography and Historical Sketch of Palestine, page 308, Leeser's translation, Philadelphia, 1850). Schwarz was for sixteen years a resident of Palestine, and wrote from personal observation. The testimony of Lyllch and Schwarz should, therefore, forever settle the question of the existence of the acacia in Palestine.
Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible, page s51, states that the acacia seyal and the acacia tortilis are plentiful around the Dead Sea.
The acacia is called in the Bible Shittim, which is really the plural of Shittah, which last form occurs once only, in Isaiah xli, 19. It was exteemed a sacred wood among the Hebrews, and of it Moses was ordered to make the tabernacle, the ark of the convenant, the table for the shewbread, and the rest of the sacred furniture (Exodus xxv-xxvii).
Isaiah (xli, 19), in recounting the promises of God's mercy to the Israelites on their return from the captivity, tells them that, among other things, he will plant in the wilderness, for their relief and refreshment, the cedar, the acacia, (or, as it is rendered in our common version, the shittah), the fir, and other trees.'
The first thing, then, that we notice in this symbol of the acacia, is that it had been always consecrated from among the other trees of the forest by the sacred purposes to which it was devoted. By the Jew, the tree from whose wood the sanctuary of the tabemacle and the holy ark had been constructed would ever be viewed as more sacred than ordinary trees. The early Freemasons, therefore, very naturally appropriated this hallowed plant to the equally sacred purpose of a symbol, which was to teach an important divine truth in all ages to come.
Having thus briefly disposed of the natural history of this plant, we may now proceed to examine it in its symbolic relations.
First. The acacia, in the mythic system of Freemasonry, is pre-eminently the symbol of the IMMORTALITy OF THE SOUL--that important doctrine which it is the great design of the Institution to teach. As the evanescent nature of the flower, which "cometh forth and is cut down," reminds us of the transitory nature of human life, so the perpetual renewal of the evergreen plant, which uninterruptedly presents the appearance of youth and vigor, is aptly compared to that spiritual life in which the soul, freed from the corruptible companionship of the body, shall enjoy an eternal spring and an immortal youth. Hence, in the impressive funeral service of our Order, it is said that "this evergreen is an emblem of our faith in the immortality of the soul. By this we are reminded that we have an immortal part within us, which shall survive the grave, and which shall never, never, never die." And again, in the closing sentences of the monitorial lecture of the Third Degree, the same sentiment is repeated, and we are told that by "the evergreen and ever-living emblem of immortality, the acacia" the Freemason is strengthened "with confidence and composure to look forward to a blessed inmortality." Such an interpretation of the symbol is an easy and a natural one ; it suggests itself at once to the least reflective mind; and consequently, in some one form or another, is to be found existing in all ages and nations.
There was an ancient custom-which is not, even now, altogether disused-fór mourners to carry in their hands at funerals a sprig of some evergreen, generally the cedar or box, or the cypress, and to deposit it in the grave of the deceased.
According to Dalcho, the Hebrews always planted a sprig of the acacia at the head of the grave of a departed friend.
Dalcho says, in his Second Oration (page 23), "This custom among the Hebrews arose from this cireumstance. Agreeably to their laws, no dead bodies were allowed to be interred within the walls of the City; and as the Cohens, or Priests, were prohibited from crossing a grave, it was necessery to place marks thereon, that they might avoid them. For this purpose the Acacia was used.'' Brother Mackey could not agree to the reason assigned by Dalcho, but of the existence of the custom there can be no question, notwithstanding the denial or doubt of Doctor Oliver. Blount, Travels in the Levant (page 197), says, speaking of the Jewish burial customs, "those who bestow a marble stone over any [grave) have a hole a yard long and a foot broad, in which they plant an evergreen, which seems to grow from the body and is carefully watched." Hasselquist, Travels (page 28), confirms his testimony. We borrow the citations from Brown, Antiquities of the Jews (volume 2, page 356), but have verified the reference to Hasselquist. Potter, Antiquities of Greece (page 569), tells us that the ancient Greeks "had a custom of bedecking tombs with herbs and flowers." All sorts of purple and white flowers were acceptable to the dead, but principally the amaranth and the myrtle.
The very name of the former of these plants, which signifies never fading, would seem to indicate the true symbolic meaning of the usage, although archeologists have generall supposed it to be simply an exhibition of love on the part of the survivors. Ragon says that the ancients substituted the acacia for all other plants because they believed it to be incorruptible, and not liable to injury from the attacks of any kind of insect or other animal -thus symbolizing the incorruptible nature of the soul.
Hence we see the propriety of placing the sprig of acacia, as an emblem of immortality, among the symbols of that degree, all of whose ceremonies are Intended to teach us the great truth that "the life of man, regulated by morality, faith, and justice, will be rewarded at its closing hour by the prospeet of Eternal Bliss'' as in the manuscript of Doctor Crucefix quoted by Brother Oliver in his Landmarks (11, 20). So,therefore, says Doctor Oliver, when the Master Mason exclaims, "My name is Acacia," it is equivalent to saying, "I have been in the grave-I have triumphed over it by rising from the dead-and being regenenerated in the process, I have a claim to life everlasting" (see Landmarks 11, 151, note 27).
The sprig of acacia, then, in its most ordinary signification, presents itself to the Master Mason as a symbol of the immortality of the soul, being intended to remind him, by its ever-green and unchanging nature, of that better and spiritual part within us, which, as an emanation from the Great Architect of the Universe, can never die. And as this is the most ordinary, the most generally accepted signifieation, so also is it the most important; for thus, as the peculiar symbol of immortality, it becomes the most appropriate to an Order all of whose teachings are intended to inculcate the great lesson that "life rises out of the grave." But incidental to this the acacia has two other interpretations which are well worthy of investigation.
Secondly, then, the acacia is a symbol of INNOCENCE.
The symbolism here is of a peculiar and unusual character, depending not on any real analogy in the form or use of the symbol to the idea symbolized, but simply on a double or compound meaning of the word.
For ....., in the Greek language, signifies both the plant in question and the moral quality of innocence or purity of life. In this sense the symbol refers, primarily, to him over whose solitary grave the acacia was planted, and whose virtuous conduct, whose integrity of life and fidelity to his trusts have ever been presented as patterns to the craft, and consequently to all Master Masons, who, by this interpretation of the symbol, are invited to emulate his example.
Hutchinson, indulging in his favorite theory of Christianizing Freemasonry, when he comes to this signification of the symbol, thus enlarges on the interpretation : "We Masons, describing the deplorable estate of religion under the Jewish law, speak in figures:
-'Her tomb was in the rubbish and filth east forth of the temple, and ACACIA wove its branches over her monument'; àxaxia being the Greek word for innocence, or being free from sin ; implying that the sins and corruptions of the old law, and devotees of the Jewish altar, had hid religion from those who sought her, and she was only to be found where INNOCENCE survived, and under the banner of the divine Lamb ; and as to ourselves professing that we were to be distinguished by our ACACY, or as true ACACIANS in our religious faith and tenets" (see Hutehinson's Spirit of ;Masonry, Lecture IX, page 160, edition of 1775). '
But, lastly, the acacia is to be considered as the symbol of INITIATION. This is by far the most interesting of its interpretations, and was, we have every reason to believe, the primary and original ; the others being but incidental. It leads us at once to the investigation of the significant fact that in all the ancient initiations and religious mysteries there was some plant peculiar to each, which was consecrated by its own esoteric meaning, and which occupied an important position in the celebration of the rites. Thus it was that the plant, whatever it might be, from its constant and prominent use in the ceremonies of initiation, came at length to be adopted as the symbol of that initiation.
Thus,the lettuce was the sacred plant which assumed the place of the acacia the mysteries of Adonis (see Lettuce). The lotus was that of the Brahmanical rites of India, and from them adopted by the Egyptians (see Lotus). The Egyptians also revered the erica or heàth; and the misletoe was a mystical plant among the Druids (see Erica and Mistletoe). And, lastly, the myrtle performed the same office of symbolism in the mysteries of Greece that the lotus did in Egypt or the mistletoe among the Druids (see Myrtle).
In all of these ancient mysteries, while the sacred plant was a symbol of initiation, the initiation itself was symbolic of the resurrection to a future life, and of the immortality of the soul. In this view, Freemasonry is to us now in the place of the ancient initiations, and the acacia is substituted for the lotus, the erica, the ivy, the mistletoe, and the myrtle. The lesson of wisdom is the same-the medium of imparting it is all that has been changed.
Returning, then, to the acaeia, we find that it is capable of three explanations. It is a symbol of immortality, of innocence, and of initiation. But these three significations are closely connected, and that connection must be observed, if we desire to obtain a just interpretation of the symbol. Thus, in this one symbol, we are taught that in the initiation of life, of which the initiation in the Third Degree is simply emblematie, innocence must for a time lie in the grave, at length, however, to be called, by the word of the Great Master of the Universe, to a blissful immortality.
Combine with this instruction the recollection of the place where the sprig of acacia was planted-Mount Calvary-the place of scpulture of Him who "brought life and immortality to light, " and Who, in Christian Freemasonry, is designated, as He is in Scripture, as the lion of the tribe of Judah; and remember, too, that in the mystery of His death, the wood of the cross takes the place of the acacia.
Therefore, in this little and apparently insignificant symbol, but which is really and truly the most important and significant one in Masonic science, we have a beautiful suggestion of all the mysteries of life and death, of time and eternity, of the present and of the future.
A word introdueed by Hutchinson, in his book, The Spirit of Masonry, to designate a Freemason in reference te the akakia, or innocence with which he was to be distinguished, from the Greek word axaxia (see the preceding article on the Acacia). The Acacians constituted a heretical seet in the primitive Christian Church, who derived their name from Acacius, Bishop of Caesarea from 340 to 365. The doctrine of these Acacians was that Christ is not of the same substance as God, but merely resembles Him. There was subsequently another sect of the same name under Acacius, who was Patriarch of Constantinople from 471. He died in the year 489. But it is needless to say that the Hutchinsonian application of the word Acacian to signify a Freemason has nothing to do with the theological referenee of the term.
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