In Freemasonry, the hand as a symbol holds a high place, because it is the principal seat of the sense of feeling so necessary to and so highly revered by Freemasons. The same symbol is found in the most ancient religions, and some of their analogies to Masonic symbolism are peculiar. Thus, Horapollo says that among the Egyptians the hand was the symbol of a builder, or one fond of building, because all labor proceeds from the hand. In many of the Ancient Mysteries the hand, especially the left, was deemed the symbol of equity. In Christian art a hand is the indication of a holy person or thing. In early medieval art, the Supreme Being was always represented by a hand extended from a cloud, and generally in the act of benediction.
The form of this act of benediction, as adopted by the Roman Church, which seems to have been borrowed from the symbols of the Phrygian and Eleusinian priests or hierophants, who used it in their mystical processions, presents a singular analogy, which will be interesting to Mark Master Masons who will recognize in it a symbol of their own ceremonies. In the benediction referred to, as given in the Latin Church, the thumb, index, and middle fingers are extended, and the two others bent against the palm as in the illustration. The church explains this position of the extended thumb and two fingers as representing the Trinity; but the older symbol of the Pagan priests, which was precisely of the same form, must have had a different meaning.
A writer in the British Magazine (volume I, page 565) thinks that the hand, which was used in the Mithraic mysteries in this position, was symbolic of the Light emanating not from the sun, but from the Creator, directly as a special manifestation; and he remarks that chiromancs or divination by the hand is an art founded upon the notion that the human hand has some reference to the decrees of the supreme power peculiar to it above all other parts of the microcosmus man. Certainly, to the Freemason, the hand is most important as the symbol of that mystical intelligence by which one Freemason knows another "in the dark as well as in the light."
To the above observations by Doctor Mackey we may add that scores of references in the Bible attest the important significance that from the earliest times has been associated with the hand. As a pledge of fidelity the hand is frequently employed in all religious rites, old or new. The sign of a covenant indicated by a movement of the hand is noted by several authors, notably in a chapter on the subject in the Threshold Covenant, H. Clay Trumbull, 1896 (pages 74 to 94). This authority says "It is a notes worthy fact that the uplifted hand is prominent in the representation of the deities of Babylonia, Assyria, Phenicia, and Egypt, especially of the gods of life or of fertility, who have covenant relations with men. And the same is true of the representations of sovereigns, in the ancient East, who are supposed to be in peculiar relations with the gods. Thus on the seal of Urgur, the earliest ruler of Ur of the Chaldees (see Genesis xi 31 and xv 7), the ruler and his attendants appear with uplifted hands before the moon-god Sin, who in turn is represented with his hand uplifted, as if he were making covenant with him. This is from Perrot and Chipiez's History of Art in Chaldea and Assyria (i, pages 38 and 84). It is the same with the sun-god Shamash and his worshipers, Sayce's Social Life Arrow the Assyrians aru] Babylonians (page 52)."
Professor Trumbull submits numerous instances of the kind in records from various parts of the world and also makes the fact clear that the uplifted hands in the representations of deities and their worshipers was not the attitude of adoration nor of supplication but a symbol of covenanting, the showing of a pledge, a formal act of visible consecration. Of the importance of such an act with the hand there are frequent allusions in the Scriptures. Trumbull (page 82) says, "There is a clear recognition of this idea in many Bible references to the lifting up of the hands unto God, as if in covenant relations with him.
Thus Abraham says to the King of Sodom, 'I have lift up my hand to the Lord,' Genesis xiv 22, as if he would say I have pledged myself to Him. I have given him my hand. And the Psalmist lxiii 4, says 'I will lift up my hand in Thy name.' God Himself says, by His prophet, Isaiah il 22, 'I will lift up Mine hand to the nations;' that is I will covenant with them. Compare Exodus vi 8, Numbers xiv 30, and Nehemiah ix 15. And 80 in many another case. Indeed the Assyrian word for swearing--nish--is literally lifting up the hand, and the Hebrew word nasa means to lift up the hand or to swear (see Tallquist's Die Sprague Contracte Nabu Naido, page 108, and Gesenius's Hebrew Lexicon). Again, there may be a reference to the 'hand of might' in a covenant relation, in those passages where God is spoken of as bringing His people out of Egypt by 'a strong hand' or 'a mighty hand,' and as dealing with them afterwards in the same way (see, for example, Exodus ui 19; xiii 3, 14, 16; xxxii ll; Deuteronomy iii 24; iv 34; v 15, vi 21; vii 8, 19; ix 26; xi 2, etc.; Second Chronicles vi 3'' Ezekiel xx 34; Daniel ix 15). An uplifted hand is a symbol found also on the stepped pyramid temples of Polynesia (see Ellis's Polynesian Pesearches ii, page 207, illustration)."
Attention may be directed to the additional authority given in the signing of a document by one's own hand. Even where a person cannot write for himself, a mark made by the one attesting to the truth of the rest of the writing is acceptable and customary. To pass a coin from hand of the one party to a contract into the hand of another person involved in the matter has been accepted as a mutual pledge of the good faith of both concerned to carry out the terms of the undertaking. An English expression about "taking a shilling" refers to the binding of the bargain when a soldier enlists in the British Array. All refer to the covenant authorized by a sign made by the hand. We must not forget the common expressions relating to the hand as an agency, a source, an authority, and so on, as in "at first hand," "by hand," "in hand," "in the hands of," etc. Nor may we overlook the use of blood to emphasize the importance of a contract. Professor Trumbull offers a suggestive comment on the relation of this to an oath or obligation. "The very term sign manual, employed for a veritable signature, may point to an origin in this custom. Indeed, may it not be that the large red seal attached to important documents, at the present time, is a survival of the signature and seal of the bloody hand?" (Threshold Covenant, page 94). Of such gestures as are made by the laying on of hands in Church ceremonies and elsewhere in sealing a covenant there are many pregnant allusions in the Bible and other places. Compare Genesis it 8, 94; Numbers xxvii, 8 to 23; Acts vi 6; viiu 18, xui 3; xix 6; First Timothy iv 14; vi 2; viii 9; Hebrews vi 2; viii 9 (see Covenant and Oath, also Penalty).
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