Tuesday, September 15, 2009


This is a significant word in Royal Arch Masonry, and has been generally explained as being the name by which Jehovah was worshiped among the Egyptians. As this has been recently denied, and the word asserted to be only the name of a city in Egypt, it is proper that some inquiry should be made into the authorities on the subject. he first mention of On in the Bible is the history of Joseph, to whom Pharaoh gave "to wife Asenath the daughter of Poti-pherah, priest of On." The city of On was in Lower Egypt, between the Nile and the Red Sea, and "adorned," says Philippson, "by a gorgeous temple of the sun in which a numerous priesthood officiated."

The investigation of modern Egyptologists have shown that this is an error. On was the name of a city where the sun-god was worshiped, but On was not the name of that god.

Champollion, in his Dictionaire Egyptien, gives the phonetic characters, with the figurative symbols of a serpent and a disk, and a seated figure, as the name of the sun-god. Now, of these two characters, the upper one has the power of R, and the lower of A, and hence the name of the god Ra. And this ids the concurrent testimony of Bunsen, Lepsius, Gliddon, and all recent authorities.

But although On was really the name of the city, the founders of the Royal Arch had, with the lights then before them, assumed that it was the name of a god, and had so incorporated it with their system. With better light than theirs, we can no longer accept their definition; yet the word may still be retained as a symbol of the Egyptian god. I know not who has power to reject it; and if scholars preserve, outside of the symbolism, the true interpretation, no will harm will be done. It is not the only significant word in Masonry whose old and received meaning has been shown to be incorrect, and sometimes even absurd. And yet the word is still retained as the expression of an old idea.

Wilkinson says of it: "This city was in all ages a sort of ecclesiastical metropolis of Lower Egypt - the prime seat of the sacred mysteries and higher science of the country, and was, as such, the fountain from which the Greek philosophers and historians were allowed to draw the scanty information which they have transmitted to us." The sun, which was there worshiped, was in the Egyptian, as in other idolatrous systems, one of the chief deities. In another place in the Bible, (JER. xliii. 13,) the city of On is called Bethshemesh, the city of the sun; and the Greeks called in Heliopolis, which had precisely the same meaning. Now, what was actually the sigification of the word ON? In the language of the hieroglyphics, the sun, it is true, called RA; but St. Cyril, who, as Bishop of Alexandria,m should have known something of this subject, says that On signified among the Egyptians, the sun. Higgins (Celt. Druids, 171,) quotes an Irish commentator as showing that the name AIN or ON was the name of the Triad of gods in the Irish language. "All etymologists," Higgins continues, "have supposed the word On to mean the sun; but how the name arose has not before been explained." In another work, (Anacalypis, vol. i., p. 109,) Higgins makes the following important remarks: "Various definitions are given of the word ON; but they are all unsatisfactory. It is written in the Old Testament in two ways aun, and an. It is usually rendered in English by the word On. This word is supposed to mean the sun, and the Greeks translated it by the word ...., or Sol. But I think it only stood for the sun, as the emblem of the procreative power of nature." Bryan says, (Ant. Mythol., i. 19,) when speaking of this word: "On, Eon or Aon, was another title of the sun among the Amonians. The Seventy, where the word occurs in the Scripture, interpret it the sun, and call the city of On, Heliopolis; and the Coptic Pentateuch renders the city On by the city of the sun." Plato, in his Timaeus ( Mit a Sue), says: "Tell me of the god ON, which is, and never knew beginning." And although Plato may have been here thinking of the Greek word ΩN, which means Being, it is not improbable that he may have referred to the god worshiped at On, or Heliopolis, as it was thence that the Greeks derived so much or their learning. It would be vain to attempt to make an analogy between the Hindu sacred word AUM and the Egyptian ON. The fact that the M former word is the initial of some secret word, renders the conversion of it into N impossible, because it would thereby lose its signification.

The old Masons, misled by the authority of St. Cyril, and by the translation of the name of the city into "City of the Sun" by the Hebrews and the Greeks, very naturally supposed that Om was the Egyptian sun-god, their supreme deity, as the sun always was, wherever he was worshiped. Hence, they appropriated that name as a sacred word explanatory of the Jewish Tetragrammaton.

Masonic Encyclopedia