In the Hebrew, represented by :. The seventh letter of the English, Latin, and Romanic alphabets. In the Greek and many other alphabets it is the third in place; in the Russian, Wallachian, and some others it is the fourth; in the Arabic the fifth, and in the Ethiopian the twentieth. In Hebrew it is called Ghe-mel, is of the numerical value of three, and its signification is camel. It is associated with the third sacred name of God, in Hebrew, in: GlwWdot, or in Latin magnus, the Mighty. In Freemasonry it is given as the initial of the word God. The Masonic use of the letter tends to the belief of a modern form in the ceremony of the Fellow Craft Degree (see G. O. D.). As in all Roman Catholic and in many Protestant churches the cross, engraved or sculptured in some prominent position, will be found as the expressive symbol of Christianity, so in every Masonic Lodge a letter G may be seen in the East, either painted on the wall or sculptured in wood or metal, and suspended over the Master's chair. This is, in fact, if not the most prominent, certainly the most familiar, of all the symbols of Freemasonry. It is the one to which the poet, Brother Robert Burns, alluded in those well known and often-quoted lines, in which he speaks of . . . that hieroglyphic bright
Which none but Craftsmen ever saw;" that is to say, ever saw understandingly ever saw, knowing at the same time what it meant. There if an uncertainty as to the exact time when this symbol was first introduced into Speculative Masonry. It was not derived, in its present form, from the Operative Masons of the Middle Ages, who bestowed upon Freemasonry so much of its symbolism, for it if not found among the architectural decorations of the old cathedrals. Doctor Oliver says it was in the old lectures; but this is an uncertain expression. From Prichard's Masonry Dissected, which was published in 1730, it would seem that the symbol was not in use at that date. But it may have been omitted. If Tubal Kain, which was published in 1767, is, as it purported to be, identical with Prichard's purpose, the question is settled; for it contains the lecture on the letter G. to which reference will directly be made.
However, it is certain that the symbol was well known and recognized in 1766, and some few years before. The book entitled Solomon in all has Glory, the first edition of which appeared in that year, and which is a translation of Le Maon demasque, contains the reference to and the explanation of the symbol. The work contains abundant internal evidence that it is a translation, and hence the symbol may, like some others of the system subsequent to 1717, have been first introduced on the Continent, and then returned in the translation, all of which would indicate a date some years prior to 1776 for the time of its adoption.
In the ritual contained in Tubal Kain (page 18), or, if that be only a reprint, in Masonry Dissected, that is to say, in 1768 or in 1730, there is a test which is called The Repeating the Letter G, and which Doctor Oliver gives in his Landmarks (I, 454) as a part of the old lectures. It is doggerel verse, and in the form of a catechism between an examiner and a respondent, a form greatly affected in these old lectures, and is as follows, the Resp. meaning Response, and the Ex., Examiner:
RESP. In the Midst of Solomon's Temple there stands a G A letter for all to read and see; But few there be that understand What means the letter G. Ex. My friend, if you pretend to be Of this Fraternity You can forthwith and rightly tell What means that letter G. RESP. By sciences are brought about Bodies of various kinds, Which do appear to perfect sight But none but males shall know my Ex. the Right shall RESP. If Worshipful. Ex. Both Right and Worshipful I am; To nail you I have command, That you forthwith let me know, As I you may understand. RESP. BY letters four and science five This G aright doth stand, In a due art and proportion You have your answer, Friend.
And now as to the signification of the symbol. We may say, in the first place, that the explanation is by no means, and never has been, esoteric. As the symbol itself has always been exposed to public view, forming, as it does, a prominent part of the furniture of a Lodge, to be seen by everyone, so our Masonic authors from the earliest times, have not hesitated to write, openly and in the plainest language, of its signification. The fact is, that the secret instruction in reference to this symbol relates not to the knowledge of the symbol itself, but to the mode in which, and the object for which that knowledge has been obtained.
Hutchinson, who wrote as early as 1776, says, in his Spirit of Masonry (Lecture viii):
It is new incumbent on me to demonstrate to you the great signification of the letter G. wherewith Lodges and the medals of Masons are ornamented. To apply its signification to the name of God only is depriving it of part of its Masonic import; although I have already shown that the symbols used in lodges are expressive of the Divinity's being the great object of Masonry, as Architect of the world. This significant letter denotes Geometry, which, to artificers, is the science by which all their labors are calculated and formed; and to Masons, contains the determinations definition, and proof of the order, beauty, and wonderful wisdom of the power of God in His creation.
Again, Dr. Frederick Dalcho, a distinguished Freemason of South Carolina, in one of his orations delivered and published in 1801, uses the following language (page 27):
The letter G. which ornaments the Master's Lodge, is not only expressive of the name of the Grand Architect of the universe. but also denotes the science of Geometry, so necessary to artists. But the adoption of it by Mesons implies no more than their respect for those inventions which demonstrate to the world the power, the wisdom, and beneficence of the Almighty Builder in the works of the creation.
Lastly, Doctor Oliver has said, in his Golden Remains of she Early Masonic Writers, that "the term G. A. O. T. U. is used among Masons for this great and glorious Being, designated by the letter G. that it may be applied by every brother to the object of his adoration." More quotations are unnecessary to show that from the earliest times, since the adoption of the letter as a symbol, its explanation has not been deemed an esoteric or secret part of the ritual. No Masonic writer has hesitated openly to give an explanation of its meaning. The mode in which, and the purpose for which, that explanation was obtained are the only hidden things about the symbol.
It is to be regretted that the letter G. as a symbol, was ever admitted into the Masonic system. The use of it as an initial would necessarily confine it to the English language and to modern times. It wants therefore, as a symbol, the necessary characteristics of both universality and antiquity. The Greek letter gamma is said to have been venerated by the Pythagoreans because it was the initial of af,uerpzQ, or Geometry. But this veneration could not have been shared by other nations whose alphabet had no gamma, and where the word for geometry was entirely different. There can be no doubt that the letter G is a very modern symbol, not belonging to any old system anterior to the origin of the English language. It is, in fact, a corruption of the old Hebrew Cabalistic symbol, the letters 1yod, by which the sacred name of God--in fact, the most sacred name, the Tetragrammaton is expressed. This letter yod is the initial letter of the word ;ll;r, or Jehovah, and is constantly to be met with among Hebrew writers, as the abbreviation or symbol of that most holy name, which, indeed, was never written at length. Now, as G is in like manner the initial of God, the English equivalent of the Hebrew Jehovah, the letter has been adopted as a symbol intended to supply to modern Lodges the place of the Hebrew symbol. First adopted by the English ceremony makers, it has without remark, been transferred to the Freemasonry of the Continent, and it is to be found as a symbol in all the systems of Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, and every other country where Freemasonry has been introduced; although in Germany only can it serve, as it does in England, for an intelligent symbol. The letter G. then has in Freemasonry the same force and signification that the letter god had among the Cabalists. It is only a symbol of the Hebrew letter, and, as that is a symbol of God, the letter G is only a symbol of a symbol. As for its reference to geometry, Kloss, the German Masonic historian, says that the old Operative Masons referred the entire science of geometry to the art of building, which gave to the modern English Freemasons occasion to embrace the whole system of Freemasonry under the head of Geometry, and hence the symbol of that science, as well as of God, was adopted for the purpose of giving elevation to the Fellow Craft's Degree.
Indeed, the symbol, made sacred by its reference to the Grand Geometrician of the universe, was well worthy to be applied to that science which has, from the remotest times, been deemed synonymous with Freemasonry.
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