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The Ineffable Name

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Bro. Roy F. Pruett

One of the most important symbols in Freemasonry is the ineffable, or incommunicable name of God.

Often called the Tetragrammaton, from the Greek tetra, four, and gramma, letter, because in Hebrew it consists of the four letters YHWH and ineffable because it was unlawful to pronounce it. To help the reader understand why the Name of God was incommunicable; a brief explanation of the Hebrew language is necessary.

The Hebrew alphabet consists entirely of consonants, the vowel always being inserted orally, and never written in. The vowel sounds were inserted orally but only after proper instruction as to the pronunciation of the word. The pious Jew was unable to pronounce any word which had never been before uttered in his presence. Vowel points as they are called were invented by the Masorites, 6 centuries after the Christian era. i

The name of God, as we pronounce it is Jehovah, and there is no certainty that is the correct pronunciation, for the oral tradition has been lost to history. Throughout the Old Testament, God is known by “I AM”, “El Shaddai”, “The Almighty One”, “Elohim” and other names. But upon Mount Sinai God communicated to Moses his true name, “Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel; Jehovah, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you; this [Jehovah] is my name forever, and this is my memorial unto all generations.” ii

To add to this mysticism, the Kabbalists, by the change of one letter read the passage as “This is my name forever” or in Hebrew” Zeh shemi l’olam” but wrote it as “Zeh shemi l’alom,” “This is my name to be concealed.” The Kabbalists being very meticulous in their writings, it is hard to conceive they made a mere mistake. In kabbalah hidden meanings are often deduced by transposing or reversing letters in writings. Also, a pious Jew will never pronounce the word Jehovah. When read in scripture, the word is substituted with the word “Adonai” or “Lord”, a practice carried into the English translation of the Bible.iii

In ancient times there was one person who, it is said, was in possession of the proper pronunciation of the true name of God, this was the High Priest, who after receiving it from his predecessor, would enter the Sanctum Sanctorum or Holy of Holies of King Solomon’s Temple and pronounce it three times, once a year on the day of atonement. If the traditions of Freemasonry are correct, Kings had to have possessed the true pronunciation because, King Solomon is said to possess the true word and communicated it to Hiram, King of Tyre and Hiram Abiff.iv

Since times of antiquity the name of God has been venerated as sacred. The Kabbalists and Talmudists proclaim the mere utterance of God’s name shakes Heaven and Earth,  and inspires the very angels with terror and astonishment. The Rabbins called it “shem hamphorash” or in English “the name that is declaratory”. It has been said that Freemasonry is not a religion but Freemasonry is religious. Many of the symbols used in Masonry correspond with the search for Divine Truth, which is what every Mason searches for in his work and travels. ?

i Mackey, Albert Gallatin. The Book of the Chapter; or Monitorial Instructions, in the Degree of Mark. Pgs. 142-143. Forgotten Books 2012,  Originally published 1870.
ii Holy Bible, Book of Exodus 3:14-15
iii Mackey, Albert Gallatin. The Symbolism of Freemasonry: Illustration and Explaining Its Science and Philosophy, its Legends, Myths and Symbols, originally published 1882 Location 1625 of 4467 Kindle Edition 2004.
iv Duncan, Malcom C., Duncan Ritual of Freemasonry, pg. 103. Third Edition, Crown Publishing.