The Masonic legend of the “lost word”, as briefly stated by Dr. Mackey, in his Symbolism of Freemasonry, is as follows:
“The mystical history of Freemasonry informs us that there once existed a WORD of surpassing value, and claiming a profound veneration; that this word was known to the few, and that it was at length lost, and that a temporary substitute for it was adopted.”
This idea of a mystic, all-powerful “word” was an ancient and widely diffused superstition. Just how this notion originated has not been handed down to us, either by tradition or otherwise.
It is generally known to the profane – i.e., the uninitiated – that those who were admitted to the “Mysteries” were entrusted with a certain sacred word; and as the scientific knowledge, also secretly imparted to those who were initiated, gave those who took the higher degrees the power to work apparent miracles, the ignorant and superstitious multitude naturally thought, and were perhaps taught to believe, that it was by the use of this “word”, so sacredly concealed, that the priests were able to perform all their wonderful works.
The word was, however, nothing but the “password” which went with the “sign”, by which the initiated could make themselves known to one another.
The notion was that this “word” consisted of the true name of God, together with knowledge of its proper pronunciation, and that the fortunate possessor of this knowledge became thereby clothed with supernatural power – that by the speaking of this word he could perform all sorts of miracles, and even raise the dead.
According to the Kabbalists, “as the very heavens shook, and the angels themselves were filled with terror and astonishment when this tremendous word was pronounced.”
Jewish tradition states that God himself taught Moses his true name and its correct pronunciation at the “burning bush”. They believed that Moses, being thus possessed of the “word”, used it to perform all his miracles, and to confound and overthrow Pharaoh and his hosts.
It was from these, and other similar legends thus widely diffused among the ancient Oriental nations, that the veneration for a particular word arose, together with an earnest desire to obtain it, and a laborious search for it, by ambitious believers in its power.
All the magicians, enchanters, and wonder workers of the East, and the adepts of the West, were supposed to have, in some mysterious way, become possessed of this “word”, and were known to the aspirants and students of occult sciences (not yet so fortunate) by the names of “masters”, and the “word” was called by them the “master’s word”.
In former and less enlightened times the possession of the true name of God and its proper pronunciation, or some substitute for it, authorized by divine command, were even supposed requisite in order to worship him aright; for it was ignorantly thought that, if God was not addressed by his own proper name, he would not attend to the call, nor even know that the prayers of his worshipers were really addressed to him, and not to Baal, Osiris, or Jupiter; or, if knowing, would indignantly reject them. In the East, to address even an earthly potentate by any other than his own proper, high, and ceremonious title, was considered both irreverent and insulting.
Among the Jews, however, the pronunciation of the true name was supposed to be followed by such tremendous effects that a substitute, for which they believed they had the divine sanction, was enjoined.
Accordingly, we find in the Old Testament that, whenever the name of God occurs, the substitute is used instead of the true name. The word substituted is generally “Adonai”, or Lord, unless the name follows that word, and then “Elohim” is used; as, “Adonai Elohim”, meaning, Lord God. From this long continued use of a substitute for the real word, the latter, or at least its correct pronunciation, was thought to be lost.
According to some the sacred Tetragrammaton, or four lettered name of God in Hebrew, incorrectly pronounced Jehovah, was the true word.
Others thought that the Hebrew word Jah, the Chaldaic Bul or Bell, or the Egyptian On or Om, the Hindu Aum, together with various combinations of them all, constituted the “grand omnific word”. But as the possession of no one of them, nor any possible combination of them, seems to confer any miraculous powers on the possessor, neither of them can be the correct one according to ancient traditions.
The Astronomical Significance of the “Word”
The Masonic legend of the deposit of the “word” in a secure and secret place, and its very consequent loss, is as follows:
“Enoch, under the inspiration of the Most High, built a secret temple underground, consisting of nine vaults, or arches, situated perpendicularly under each other. A triangular plate of gold, each side of which was a cubit long, and enriched with precious stones, was fixed to a stone of agate of the same form.
“On this plate of gold was engraved the “word”, or true-name of God; and this was placed on a cubical stone, and deposited in the ninth or lowest arch. In consequence of the deluge, all knowledge of this secret temple was lost, together with the sacred and ineffable or unutterable name, for ages.
“The lost word was subsequently found in this long-forgotten subterranean temple by David, when digging the foundations for the temple, afterward built by Solomon his son.”
Other versions of this legend ascribe the building of the underground temple, and the deposit therein of the “word”, to Solomon, and its discovery to those “who dug the foundations of the second temple on the same spot, and connect it with the ‘substitute ark’ deposited in the same place.”
Both legends, however, agree in stating that the “word” was buried deep underground, and in the ninth arch, or lowest of them all; and that it was lost, and remained “buried in darkness” until it was subsequently found and brought to light.
In ancient times, and according to the mystical theology of those days; God and the sacred name of God were supposed to be one and the same. The “word” was itself considered to be, in some sense, a living, creative power.
Thus Plato taught that the divine “logos”, or word, was God. But the sun was by the ancients universally adopted as the symbol of God, and subsequently confounded with God, so the various names of God became also solar names. The loss of the solar name, therefore, became but another expression of the loss of the sun, or sun-god, in the lower hemisphere.
Now, let us see how this will harmonise with the legend just related. The sun, having reached the summit of the zodiacal arch, at the summer solstice, begins to descend toward the region of darkness.
From Cancer he descends to Leo, from Leo to Virgo, from Virgo to Libra, and so on until Capricorn is reached, which is the ninth sign from the vernal equinox, and the undermost of one of the zodiac, corresponding to the ninth or lowest arch of the secret vault, and there on 21st December, at his lowest declination, at the winter solstice, he is lost, and “lies buried in darkness”, until, reviving, he commences his ascent toward the vernal equinox, and begins by his more potent rays to rebuild that glorious temple of light and beauty, adorned by flowers and fruits, which the rude assaults of winter have destroyed.
Another allegorical correspondence is found in the fact that the discovery of the word is made according to the Masonic legend, by “three”, which agrees perfectly with the number of signs, Aquarius, Pisces and Aries, and the months January, February and March, which separate the winter solstice from the vernal equinox, when, according to the legend of Hiram, the sun is found.
The sacred name was engraved on a triangular plate of gold, which, according to astrology, is the solar metal. This triangular plate was fixed to a stone of agate of the same form.
Now each month, the ancient astrologers taught, had its appropriate gem. The agate is emblematic of the month of June, the summer solstice, and the resurrection and exaltation of the sun.
The whole was placed on a cubical stone, but the cube was sacred to Apollo, who is identical with Helios, the sun-god. The altar of Apollo at Delos was in the form of a cube. The symbolism of this legend is therefore perfect in all of its details – the emblematic correspondence is too absolute to be accidental.
The legend of the lost word is but another form of the solar allegory of the death and resurrection of Hiram, and other solar avatars including Jesus, and teaches the same lesson.
By Julian Websdale, HumansAreFree.com; / Reference: Hewitt Brown, R. (2002). Stellar Theology and Masonic Astronomy. San Diego: The Book Tree.