Veils, Symbolism of The
Neither the construction nor the symbolism of the veils in the Royal Arch Tabernacle is derived from that of the Sinaitic. In the Sinaitic Tabernacle there were no veils of separation between the different parts, except the one white one that hung before the most holy place. The decorations of the Tabernacle were curtains, like modern tapestry, interwoven with many colors; no curtain being wholly of one color, and not running across the apartment, but covering its sides and roof. The exterior form of the Royal Areh Tabernacle was taken from that of Moses, but the interior decoration from a passage of Josephus not properly understood.
Josephus has been greatly used by the fabricators of advanced Degrees of Freemasonry not only for their ideas of symbolism, but for the suggestion of their legends. In the Second Book of Chronicles (in, 14) it is said that Solomon "made the veil of blue, and purple, and crimson, and fine linen, and wrought cherubim thereon." This description evidently alludes to the single veil, which, like that of the Sinaitic Tabernacle, was placed before the entrance of the Holy of Holies. It by no means resembles the four separate and equidistant veils of the Masonic Tabernacle.
But Josephus had said (Antiquities, book viii chapter iii, 3) that the King "also had veils of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and the brightest and softest linen, with the most curious flowers svrougllt upon them, which were to be drawn before these doors." To this description--which is a very inaccurate Qne, which refers, too, to the interior of the first Temple, and not to the supposed Tabernacle subsequently erected near its ruins, and which, besides, has no Biblical authority for its support--we must trace the ideas, even as to the order of the veils, which the inventors of the Masonic Tabernacle adopted in their construction of it. That Tabernacle cannot be recognized as historically correct, but must be considered, like the three doors of the Temple in the Symbolic Degrees, simply as a symbol. But this does not at all diminish its value.
The symbolism of the veils must be considered in two aspects: first, in reference to the symbolism of the veils as a whole, and next, as to the symbolism of each veil separately.
As a whole, the four veils, constituting four divisions of the Tabernacle, present obstacles to the neophyte in his advance to the most holy place where the Grand Council sits. Now he is seeking to advance to that sacred spot that he may there receive his spiritual illumination, and be invested with a knowledge of the true Divine Name. But Masonically, this Divine Name is itself but a symbol of Truth, iche object, as has been often said, of all a Freemason's search and labor. The passage through the veils is, therefore, a symbo],of the trials and difficulties that are eneountered and must be overcome in the search for and the acquisition of Truth. This is the general symbolism; but we lose sight of it, in a great degree, when we come to the interpretation of the symbolism of each veil independently of the others, for this principally symbolizes the various virtues and affections that should characterize the Freemason. Yet the two symbolisms are really eonnected, for the virtues symbolized are those which should distinguish everyone engaged in the Divine Search.
The symbolism, according to the system adopted in the American Rite, refers to the colors of the veils and to the miraculous signs of Moses, which are described in Exodus as having been shown by him to prove his mission as the messenger of Jehovah.
Blue is a symbol of universal friendship and benevolence. It is the appropriate color of the Symbolic Degrees, the possession of which is the first step in the progress of the search for truth to be now instituted. The Mosaic sign of the serpent was the symbol among the ancients of resurrection to life, because the serpent by casting his skin, is supposed continually to renew his youth. It is the symbol here of the loss and the recovery of the Word.
Purple is a symbol here of union, and refers to the intimate connection of Ancient Craft and Royal Arch Masonry. Hence it is the appropriate color of the intermediate Degrees, which must be passed through in the prosecution of the search. The Mosaic sign refers to the restoration of the leprous hand to health. Here again, in this representation of a diseased limb restored to health, we have a repetition of the allusion to the loos and the recovery of the Word; the Word itself being but a symbol of Divine Truth, the search for which constitutes the whole Science of Freemasonry, and the symbolism of which pervades the whole system of initiation from the first to the last Degree.
Scarlet is a symbol of fervency and zeal, and is appropriated to the Royal Arch Degree because it is by these qualities that the neophyte, now so far advanced in his progress, must expect to be successful in his search. The Mosaic sign of changing water into blood bears the same symbolic reference to a change for the better--from a lower to a higher state--from the elemental water in which there is no life to the blood which is the life itself--from darkness to light. The progress is still onward to the recovery of that which had been lost, but which is yet to be found. White is a symbol of purity, and is peculiarly appropriate to remind the neophyte, who is now almost at the close of his search, that it is only by purity of life that he can expect to be found worthy of the reception of Divine Truth. "Blessed," says the Great Teacher, "are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." The Mosaic signs now cease, for they have taught their lesson; and the aspirant is invested with the Signet of Truth, to assure him that, having endured all trials and overcome all obstacles, he is at length entitled to receive the reward for which he has been seeking; for the Signet of Zerubbabel is a royal signet, which confers power and authority on him who possesses it.
And so we now see that the Symbolism of the Veils however viewed, whether collectively or separately represents the laborious, but at last successful, search for Divine Truth.
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