Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Star that led the Y's men from the East to the West

Sabaism. The worship of the sun, moon, and the stars, the TSARA, Hashmaim, "the host of heaven." It was practiced in Persia, Chaldea, India, and other Oriental countries, at an early period of the world's history, See Blazing Star and Sun Worship.

The Blazing Star. The Blazing Star, which is not, however, to be confounded with the Five-Pointed Star, is one of the most important symbols Freemasonry, ans makes its appearance in several of the degrees. "It is," says Hutchinson, "the first and most exalted object that demands or attenrion in the Lodge." It undoubtedly derives this importance, first, from its great antiquity as symbol derived from other older and older systems.

Extensive as has been the application of this symbol ijn the Masonic ritual, it is not surprising that there has been a great difference of opinion in relation to its true signification. But this difference of opinion has been almost entirely confined to its use in the first degree. In the higher degrees, where has been less opportunity of innovation, the uniformity of meaning attached to the star has been carefully preserved.

In the twenty-eighth degree of the Ancient and Accepted Rite, the explanation given of the Blazing star, is, that it is symbolic of a true Mason, who, by perfecting himself in the way of truth, that is to say, by advancing in knowledge, becomes like a blazing star, shining with brilliancy in the midst of darkness. The star is, therefore, in this degree a symbol of truth.

In the fourth degree of the same Rite, the star is agin said to be a symbol of the light of Divine Providence pointing out the way of truth.

In the ninth degree, this symbol is called "the star of direction;" and while it primitively alludes to an especial guidance given for a particular purpose expressed in the degree, it still retains, in a remoter sense, its usual significatiom as an emblem of Divine Providence guiding and directing the pilgrim in his journey through life.

When, however, we descend to Ancient Craft Masonry, we shall find a considerable diversity in the application of this symbol.

In the earliest rituals, immediately after the revival of 1717, the Blazing Star is not mentioned, but it was not long before it was introduced. In the ritual of 1735 it is detailed as part of the furniture of a Lodge, with the explanation that the " Mosaic Pavement is the Ground Floor of the Lodge, the Blazing Star the Centre, and the Indented Tarsel the Border round about it!" In a primitive Tracing Board of the Entered Apprentice, copied by Oliver, in his Historical Landmarks, (i. 133,) without other date then it was "published early in the last century," the Blazing Star occupies a prominent position in the centre of the Tracing Boarding. Oliver says that it represemted BEAUTY, and was called "the glory in the centre."

In the lectures subsequently prepared by Dunckerley, and adopted by the Grand Lodge, the Blazing Star was said to represent "the star which lead the wise men to Bethlehem, proclaiming to mankind the nativity of the Son of God, and here conducting our spiritual progree to the Author of our redemption."

In the Prestonian lecture, the Blazing Star, with the Mosaic Pavement and the Tasselated Border, are called the Ornaments of the Lodge, and the Blazing star is thus explained:

"The Blazing star, or glory in the centre, reminds us that awwful period when the Almighty delivered the two tables of stone, containing the ten commanments, to his faithful servant Moses on Mount sinai, when the rays of his divine glory shone so bright that none could behold it without fear and trembling. It also reminds us of the omnipresence, of the Almighty, overshadowing us with his divine love, and dispensing his blessings amongst us; and by its being laced in the centre, it further reminds us, that wherever we may be assembled together, God is in the midst of us, seeing our actions, and observing the secret intents and movements of our hearts."

In the lectures taught by Webb, and very generally adopted in this country, the Blazing Star is said to be "commemorative of the star which appeared to guide the wise men of the East to the place of our Saviour's nativity," and it is subsequently explained as hieroglyphically representing divine Providence. But the commemorative allusion to the Star of Bethlehem seeming to some to be objectionable, from its peculiar application to the Christian religion, at the revision of the lectures made in 1843 by the Baltimore Convention, this explanation was omitted, and the allusion to divine Providence alone retained.

In Hutchinson's system, the Blazing Star is considered a symbol of Prudence. "It is placed," says he, "in the centre, ever to be present to the eye of the Mason, that his heart may be attentive to the dictates and steadfast in the laws of Prudence; - for Prudence is the rule of all virtues; Prudence is the path which leads to every degree of propriety; Prudence is the channel whence self-approbation flows forever; she leads us forth to worthy actions, and as a Blazing Star, enlighteneth us through the dreary and darksome paths of this life." (Sp. of Mas., Lect. V., p. 68.) Hutchinson also adopted Dunckerley's allusion to the Star of Bethlehem, but only as a secondary symbolism.

In another series of lecture formerly in use in America , but which I believe is now abandoned, the Blazing Star is said to be "emblematical of that Prudence which ought to appear conspicuous in the conduct of every Mason; and is more especially commemorative of the star which appeared in the east to guide the wise to Bethlehem, and proclaim the birth and presence of the Son of God."

The Masons on the Continent of Europe, speaking of the symbol, say: "It is no matter whether the figure of which the Blazing Star forms the centre be a square, triangle, or circle, it still represents the sacred name of God, as an universal spirit who enlivens our hearts , who purifies our reason, who increases or knowledge, and who makes us wiser and better men."

And lastly, in the lecture revised by Dr. Hemming and adopted by the Grand Lodge of England at the union in 1813, and now constituting the authorized lectures of that jurisdiction, we find the following definition:

"The Blazing Star, or glory in the centre, refers us to the sun, which enlightens the earth with its refulgent rays, dispensing its blessings to mankind at large, and giving light and life to all things here below."

Hence we find that different times the Blazing star has been declared to be a symbol of divine Providence, of the Star of Bethlehem, of Prudence, of Beauty, and of the Sun. Before we can attempt to decide upon these various opinions, and adopt the true signification, it is necessary to extend our investigations into the antiquity of the emblem, and inquire what was the meaning given to it by the nations who first established it as a symbol.

Sabaism, or the worship of the stars, was one of the earliest deviations from the the true system of religion. One of the causes was the universally established doctrine among the idolatrous nations of antiquity, that each star was animated by the soul of a hero god, who once dwelt incarnate upon earth. Hence, in the hieroglyphical system, the star denoted a god. To this signification, allusion is made by the prophet Amos, when he says to the Israelites, while reproaching them for their idolatrous habits: "But ye have borne the tabernacle of your Moloch and Chiun your images, the star of your god, which ye made to yourselves." Amos v.26.

This idolatry was early learned by the Israelites from their Egyptian taskmasters; and so unwilling were they to abandon it, that Moses found it necessary strictly to forbid the worship of anything "that is in heaven above;" notwithstanding which we find the Jews repeatedly committing the sin which had been so expressively forbidden. Saturn was the star to whose worship they were more particularly addicted under the names of Moloch and Chiun, already mentioned in the passage quoted from Amos. The planet Saturn was worshiped under the names of Moloch, Malcom or Milcom by the Ammonites, the Canaanites, the Phoenicians, and the Carthaginians, and under that of Chiun by the Israelites in the desert. Saturn was worshiped among the Egyptians under the name of Raiphan, or, as it is called in the Setuagint, Remphan. St. Paul, quoting the passage of Amos, says, "ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch and the star of your god Remphan."

Hale, in his Analysis of Chronology, says, in alluding to this passage of St. Paul, "There is no direct evidence that the Israelites worshipped the dog-star in the wilderness, except this passage; but the indirect is very strong, drawn from the general prohibition of the worship of the sun, moon, and stars, to which they must have been prone. And this was peculiarly an Egyptian idolatry, where the dog-star was worshiped, as notifying by his heliacal rising, or emersion from the sun's rays, the regular commencement of the periodical inundation of the Nile. And the Israelite sculptures at the cemetery of Kibroth - Hattaavah, or graves of lust, in the neighborhood of Sinai, remarkably abound in hieroglyphics of the dog-star, represented as a human figure with a dog's head. That they afterwards sacrificed to the dog-star, there is expressed evidence in Josiah's description of idolatry, where the Syriac Mazaloth (improperly termed planets) denotes the dog-star; in Arabic, Mazaroth."

Fellows, in his Exposition of the Mysteries, says that this dog-star, the Anubis of the Egyptians, is the Blazing Star of Masonry, and supposing that the latter is a symbol of Prudence, which indeed it was in some of the ancient lectures, he goes on to remark: "What connection can possibly exist between a star and prudence, except allegorically in reference to the caution that was indicated to the Egyptians by the first appearance of this star, which warned them od approaching danger."

But it will hereafter be seen that he was totally misapprehended the true signification of the Masonic symbol. the work of Fellows, it may be remarked, is an unsystematic compilation of undigested learning; but the student who is searching for truth must carefully eschew all his deductions as to the genius and spirit of Freemasonry.

Notwithstanding a few discrepancies may have occurred in the Masonic lectures, as arranged at various periods and by different authorities, the concurrent testimony of the ancient religions, and the hieroglyphics language, prove that the star was symbol of God. It was so used used by the prophets of old in their metaphorical style, and it is has so been generally adopted by Masonic instructors. The application of the Blazing star as an emblem of the Saviour, has been made by those writers who give a Christian explanation of our emblems, and to the Christian Mason such an application will not be objectionable. But those who desire to refrain from anything that may tend to impair the tolerance of our system will be disposed to embrace a more universal explanation, which may be received alike by all the disciples of the Order, whatecer may be their peculiar religious views. such persons will rather accept the expression of Dr. Oliver, who, though much disposed to give a Christian character tour Institution, says, "the great Architect of the Universe is therefore symbolized in Freemasonry by the Blazing Star, as the herald of our salvation." (Symb. Glory, p. 292.)

Before concluding, a few words may be said as to the form of the Masonic symbol. It is bot an heraldic star or estoille, for that always consists of six points, while the masonic star is made with five points. This, perhaps, was with some involuntary allusion to the five Points of Fellowship. But the error has been committed in all our modern Tracing Boards of making the satr with straight points, which form, of course does represent a Blazing star. Guillim (Disp. of Herald) says: "All stars should be made with waved points, because our eyes tremnle at beholding them."

In the early Tracing Board already referred to, the star with five straight points is superimposed upon another of five five waving points. But the latter are now abandoned, and we have in the representations of the present day the incongruous symbol of a blazing star with five straight points. In the centre of the star there was always placed the letter G, which, like the Hebrew yod, was a recognized symbol of God, and thus the symbolic reference of the Blazing Star to divine Providence is greatly strengthened.

Sun Worship. Sir William Jones has remarked that two of the principal sources of mythology were a wild admiration of the heavenly bodies, particularly the sun, and an inordinate respect paid to the memory of powerful, wise, and virtuous ancestors, especially the founders of kingdoms, legislators, and warriors. To the latter cause we may attribute the euhemerism of the Greeks and the sintooism of the Chinese. But in the former we shall find the origin of sun worship the oldest and by far the most prevalent of all the ancient religions.

Eusebius says that the Phoenicians and the Egyptians were the first who ascribed divinity to the sun. But long - very long - before these ancient peoples the primeval race of Aryans worshipped the solar orb in his various manifestations as the producer of light. "In the Veda," says a native commentator, "there are only three deities: Surya in heaven, Indra in the sky, and Agni are but manifestations of God in the sun, the bright sky, and the fire derived from the solar light. In the profoundly poetic ideas of the Vedic hymns we find perpetual allusion to the sun with his life bestowing rays. Everywhere in the East, amidst its brillant skies, the sun claimed, as the glorius manifestation of Deity, the adoration of those primitive peoples. The Persians, the Assyrians, the Chaldeans, - all worshipped the sun. The Greeks, a more intellectual people, gave a poetic form to the grosser idea, and adored Apollo or Dionysus as the sun-god.

Sun worship was introduced into the mysteries not as material idolatry, but as the means of expressing an idea of restoration to life from death, drawn from the daily reappearance in the east of the solar orb after its nightly disappearance in the west. To the sun, too, as the regenerator or revivifier of all things, is the Phallic worship, which made a prominent part of the mysteries, to be attributed. From the Mithriac initiations, in which sun worship played so important a part, the Gnostics derived many of their symbols. These, again, excercised their influence upon the mediaeval Freemasons. Thus it is that the sun has become so prominent in the Masonic system; not, of course, as an object of worship, but purely as a symbol, the interpretation of which presents itself in many different ways. See Sun.

Sun. Hardly any of the symbols of Masonry are more important in their signification or more extensive in their application than the sun. As the source of material light, it reminds the Mason of that intellectual light of which he is in constant search. But it especially as the ruler of the day, giving to it a beginning and end, and a regular course of hours, that the sun is presented as a Masonic symbol. Hence, of of the three lesser lights we are told that represents or symbolizes the the sun, one the moon, and one the Master of the Lodge, because, as the sun rules the day and the moons governs the night, so should the Worshipful Master rule and govern his lodge with equal regularity and precision. And this is in strict analogy with other Masonic symbolisms. For if the lodge is a symbol of the world, which is thus governed in its changes of times and seasons by the sun, it is evident that the Master who governs the Lodge, controlling its time of opening and closing, and the work which should do, must be symbolized by the sun. The heraldic definition of the sun as a bearing fits most appositely to the symbolism of the sovereignty of the Master. Thus Gwillim says: "The sun is the symbol of sovereignty, the hieroglyphic of royalty; it doth signify absolute authority." This representation of the sun as asumbol of authority, while it explains the reference to the Master, enables us to amplify its meaning, and apply it to the three sources of authority in the Lodge, and accounts for the respective positions of the officers wielding this authority. The Master, therefore, in the East is a symbol of the rising sun; the Junior Warden in the South, of the Meridian Sun; and the Senior Warden of the West, of the Setting Sun. So in the mysteries of India, the chief officers were placed in the east, the west, and the south, respectively, to represent Brahma, or the rising; Vishnu, or the setting; and Siva, or the meridian sun. And in the Druidical rites, the Archdruid, seated in the east, was assisted by two other officers, - the one in the west representing the moon , and the other in the south representing the meridian sun.

This triple divison of the government of a Lodge by three officers, representatives of the sun in his three manifestations in the east, south, and west, will remind us of similiar ideas in the symbolism of antiquity. In the Orphic mysteries, it was taught that the sun generated from an egg, burst forth with power to triplicate himself by his own unassisted energy. Supreme power seems always to have been associated in the ancient mind witha three-fold division. Thus the sign of authority was indicated by the three-forked lightning of Jove, the trident of Neptune, and the three headed Cerberus of Pluto. The government of the Universe was divided betweent these three sons of Saturn. The chaste goddess ruled the earth as Diana, the heavens as Luna, and the infernal regions as Hecate, whence her rites were only performed in a place where three roads met.

The sun is then presented to us in Masonry first as symbol of light, but then more emphatically as a symbol of sovereign authority.

But, says Wemyss, (Symb.Lang.,) speaking of scriptural symbolism, "the sun may be considered to be an emblem of Divine Truth," because the sun or light, of which it is the source, "is not only manifest in itself, but makes other things; so one truth detects, reveals, and manifests another, as all truths are dependent on, and connected with, each other more or less." And this again is applicable to the Masonic doctrine which makes the Master the symbol of the sun; for as the sun discloses and makes manifest, by the opening of day, what had been hiding in the darkness of night, so the Master of the Lodge, as the analogue of the ancient hierophant or explainer of mysteries, makes divine truth manifest to the neophyte, who had been hitherto in intellectual darkness, and reveals the hidden or esoteric lessons of the initiation.

An Encyclopedia of Freemasonry: By Albert Mackey, M.D. 1894