Twelve Original Points of Freemasonry
The old English lectures, which were abrogated by the United Grand Lodge of England in 1813, when it adopted the system of Hemming, contained the following passage: "There are in Freemasonry twelve original points, which form the basis of the system, and comprehend the whole ceremony of initiation. Without the existence of these points, no man ever was, or can be, legally and essentially received into the Order.
Every person who is made a Mason must go through these twelve forms and ceremonies, not only in the first degree, but in every subsequent one " Hence, it will be seen that our ancient Brethren deemed these Twelve Original Points of Freemasonry, as they were called, of the highest importance to the ceremony of initiation, and they consequently took much pains, and exercised much ingenuity, in giving them a symbolical explanation. But as, by the decree of the Grand Lodge, they no longer constitute a part of the English lectures, and were never introduced into the United States of America, there can be no impropriety in presenting a brief explanation of them, for which we are indebted to the industry of Doctor Oliver, who has treated of them at great length in the eleventh lecture of his historical Landmarks. The ceremony of initiation, when these points constituted a portion of the ritual, u as divided into twelve parts, in allusion to the twelve Tribes of Israel, to each of which one of the points was referred, as follows:
1. The opening of the Lodge was symbolized by the Tribe of Reuben, because Reuben was the first-born of his father Jacob, who called him "the beginning of his strength." He was, therefore, appropriately adopted as the emblem of that ceremony which is essentially the beginning of every initiation.
2. The preparation of the candidate was symbolized by the Tribe of Simeon, because Simeon prepared the instruments for the slaughter of the Shechemites, and that part of the ceremony which relates to offensive weapons, was used as a token of our abhorrence for the cruelty exercised on that occasion 3. The report of the Senior Deacon referred to the Tribe of Levi, because, in the slaughter of the Shechemites Levi was supposed to have made a signal or report to Simeon his brother, with whom he was engaged in attacking these unhappy people while unprepared for defense.
4. The entrance of the candidate into the Lodge was symbolized by the Tribe of Judah, because they were the first to cross the Jordan and enter the promised land coming from the darkness and servitude, as it were, of the wilderness into the light and liberty of Canaan.
5. Tile prayer was symbolized by the Tribe of Zebulun because the blessing and prayer of Jacob were given to Zebulun, in preference to his brother Issachar.
6. The Circumambulation referred to the Tribe of Issaehar, because, as a thriftless and indolent Tribe, they required a leader to advance them to an equal elevation with the other tribes.
7. Advancing to the altar was symbolized by the Tribe of Dan, to teach us, by contrast, that we should advance to truth and holiness as rapidly as that bribe advanced to idolatry, among whon1 the golden serpent was first set up to receive adoration.
8. The obligation referred to the Tribe of Gad, in allusion to the solemn vow which was made by Jephthah, Judge of Israel, who was of that Tribe.
9. The entrusting of the candidate with the mysteries was symbolized by the Tribe of Asher, because he was then presented with the rich fruits of Masonic knowledge. as Asher was said to be the inheritor of fatness and royal dainties.
10. The investiture of the lambskin, by which the candidate is declared free, referred to the Tribe of Naphtali, which was invested by Moses with a peculiar freedom when he said, "O Naphtali, satisfied with favor, and full with the blessing of the Lord, possess thou the West and the South."
11. The ceremony of the northeast corner of the Lodge referred to Joseph, because, as this ceremony reminds us of the most superficial part of Freemasonry, so the two half Tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, of which the Tribe of Joseph was composed, were accounted to be more superficial than the rest as they were descendants of the grandsons only of Jacot.
12. The closing of the Lodge was symbolized by the Tribe of Benjamin, who was the youngest of the sons of Jacob, and thus closed his father's strength.
Such were the celebrated twelve original points of freemasonry of the ancient English lectures. Whey were never introduced into the United States of America, and they are now disused in England. But it will be seen that, while some of the allusions are perhaps abstruse, many of them are ingenious and appropriate. It will not, perhaps, be regretted that they have become obsolete; yet it cannot be denied that they added something to the symbolism and to the religious reference of Freemasonry. At all events, they are matters of Masonic antiquity, and, as such, are not unworthy of attention.
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