The science of Freemasonry revolves around a word of supreme importance, which became lost before those to whom it was promised could receive it. The word was necessary to the very existence of the Craft. A substitute was provided which could be used until, in the course of time, and after persistent search, the right one was found. This is a fact known to every Master Mason, but not too many know that the same symbolism runs through the entire Bible. Both in Masonry and in its great light, the Volume of Sacred Law, we find that this word is the true name of God, the knowledge of which mankind has lost, but which, with the Master’s assistance, may be recovered.
In order to understand the identity of the word with the name of God, and the identity of the name with God Himself, we must first consider the intimate relation which, the Israelites thought, existed between a man and his own name. This conception was not confined to the Israelites, for among the ancients of many lands and races, there was a general belief that a man’s name was part of himself and had an important bearing on his character. There was also a widespread superstition that the knowledge of the name gave the possessor power over the man that who bore the name. Therefore, only one’s intimate friends were allowed to know his real name, and to all others a substitute was provided.
The identity of a man with his name was believed to hold good in the case of gods with their names. Among the Hebrews it was especially true of Jehovah and His name. The name is Y H V H or is English J H V H which because we lack knowledge of its true pronunciation we usually call Jehovah. Moses received the name from God as told in the sixth chapter of Exodus. “And the Lord spake unto Moses and said unto him, I am the Lord. And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Issac, and unto Jacob by the name of God Almighty, but by my name Jehovah was I not known to them.”
This then is the ineffable name. It is also called the Tetragrammaton, meaning the four letter word. The word “ineffable” is derived from the Latin and means something that is unutterable, that cannot or may not be spoken. This definition well illustrates the Jewish attitude to the Divine name. The “incommunicable name” is a frequent term for the name of the Deity, that is, a name that cannot be expressed or shared with another.
It is difficult to explain the meaning of the Name, because to define a thing is to place it within limits, and the Name that is above every name simply has no limits. It belongs the Self-Existent and Eternal Being who is infinite in all respects. Definitions which have been suggested must be recognized as describing only limited conceptions of the attributes of the Deity. The finite mind cannot begin to comprehend that which is infinite. Some of the definitions are: “I am,” “I am what I am,” “I am because I am”. “I am who I am,” “I will be that I will be”, “I will be,” these definitions are given in the marginal references in the revised version of the Bible. It is aptly expressed in the phrase well known to us all: “It shows him to be the actual future and all-sufficient God, who alone has His being in and of Himself, and gives to all others their being, so that He was what He is, is what He was, and shall be both what He was and what He is from everlasting to everlasting.
The Jewish people believed that this Holy Name, which they held in the highest veneration, was possessed of unbounded powers. “He who pronounces it,” said they, “shakes heaven and earth, and inspires the very angels with astonishment and terror. There is Sovereign authority in this name, it governs the world by power.” But it must be remembered that the true pronunciation has been lost.
The Jewish Encyclopaedia has this to say, “The name of God is more than a mere title. It represents the Hebrew conception of the Divine nature and character and relation of God to His people. It represents the Deity as He is known to His worshipers, and stands for all the attributes which He bears in relation to them and which are revealed to them.”
There are many references to the Name in all types of descriptions and in all kinds of circumstances in the V.O.S.L., the study of which is earnestly commended to every Companion. However, one thing must be pointed out. Neither in the Bible nor in Masonry, is it the mere knowledge of a certain name or its pronunciation that is important, but the knowledge of Him who bears the name. As Masons, that which we seek is not intellectual knowledge only, but personal contact and fellowship, of which knowledge of the Name is but a symbol.