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Image credit: Rock of Masonry. Lithograph by Bencke & Scott, 1871
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Noah

Source: Quelle: Internationales Freimaurer-Lexikon von Eugen Lennhoff und Oskar Posner (1932)

In all the old Masonic manuscript Constitutions that are extant, Noah and the Flood play an important part in the Legend of the Craft. Hence, a.s the Masonic system became developed, the Patriareh was looked upon as what was called a Patron ot Freemasonry. This connection of Noah with the rnsthic history of the Order was rendered still closer erv the influence of many symbols borrowed from the Arkite Worship, one of the mest predominant of the ancient faiths. So intimatelv were incorporated the legends of Noah with the legends of Freemasonry t hat Freemasons began, at length, to be called, and are still ealled, Noachidae, or the descendants of Noah a term first applied by Doctor Anderson, and very frequently used at a much later day.

It is necessary, therefore, that every scholar who desires to investigate the legendary symbolism of Freemasonry should make himself acquainted with the Noachic myths upon which much of it is founded. Doetor Oliver, it is true, accepted them all with a childlike faith; but it is not likely that the skeptical inquirers of the present day will attribute to them any character of authenticity. Yet they are interesting, because they show us the growth of legends out of symbols, and they are instructive because they are for the most part symbolic. The Legend of the Craft tells us that the three sons of Lamech and his daughter, Naamah, "did know that God would take vengeance for sin, either by fire or water; wherefore they wrote these sciences which they had found in two pillars of stone, that they might be found after the flood." Subsequently, this legend took a different form, and to Enoch was attributed the precaution of burying the Stone of Foundation in the bosom of Mount Moriah, and of erecting the two pillars above it.

The first Masonic myth referring to Noah that presents itself is one which tells us that, while he was piously engaged in the task of exhorting his contemporaries to repentance, his attention had often been directed to the pillars which Enoch had erected on Mount Moriah. By diligent search he at length detected the entrance to the subterranean vault, and, on pursuing his inquiries, discovered the Stone of Foundation, although he was unable to comprehend the mystical characters there deposited. Leaving these, therefore, where he had found them, he simply took away the Stone of Foundation on which they had been deposited, and placed it in the Ark as a convenient altar. Another myth, preserved in one of the Ineffable Degrees, informs us that the Ark was built of cedars lvhieh grew upon Mount Lebanon. and that Noah employed the Sidonians to cut them down, under the superintendence of Japheth. The successors of these Sidonians, in after times, according to the same traeiition, were employed by King Solomon to fell and prepare cedars on the same mountain for his stupenelous Temple.

The record of Genesis lays the foundation for another series of symbolic myths connected with the Dove, which has thus been introduced into Freemasonry. After forty days, when Noah opened the window of the Ark that he might learn if the waters had subsided, he despatched a raven, which, returning, gave hun no satisfactory information. He then sent forth a Dove three several timed at an interval of seven days between each excursion. The first time, the Dove Ending no resting-place, quickly returned; the second time she came back in the evening, bringing in hel mouth an olive-leaf, which showed that the waters must have sufficiently abated to have exposed the tops of the trees; but on the third departure, the dry land being entirely uncovered, she returned no more. In the Arkite Rites, which arose after the dispersion of Babel, the Dove was always considered as a sacred bird, in commemoration of its having been the first discoverer of land. Its name, which in Hebrew ie zonah, was given to one of the earliest nations of the earth; and, as the emblem of peace and good fortune, it became the Bird of Venus. Modern Freemasons have commemorated the messenger of Noah in the honorary Degree of Orb and Dove, which is sometimes conferred on Royal Arch Masons.

On the 27th day of the second month, equivalent to the 12th of November, in the year of the world 1657, Noah, with his family, left the ark. It was exactly one year of 365 days, or just one revolution of the sun, that the Patriarch was enclosed in the Ark. This was not unobserved by the descendants of Noah, and hence, in consequence of Enoch's life of 365 days, and Noah's residence in the Ark for the same apparently mystic period, the Noachites confounded the worship of the solar orb with the idolatrous adoration which they paid to the Patriarchs who were saved from the Deluge. They were led to this, too, from an additional reason, that Noah, as the restorer of the human race, seemed, in some sort, to be a type of the regenerating powers of the sun.

So important an event as the Deluge, must have produced a most impressive effect upon the religious dogmas and rites of the nations which succeeded it. Consequently, we shall find some allusion to it in the annals of every people and some memorial of the principal circumstances connected with it, in their religious observances. At first, it is to be supposed that a veneration for the character of the second parent of the human race must have been long preserved by his descendants.

Nor would they have been unmindful of the proper reverence due to that sacred vessel—sacred in their eyes—which had preserved their great progenitor from the fury of the waters. "They would long cherish," says Alwood (Literary Antiquities of Greece, page 182), "the memory of those worthies who were rescued from the common lot of utter ruin; they would call to mind, with an extravagance of admiration, the means adopted for their preservation; they would adore the wisdom which contrived, and the goodness which prompted to, the execution of such a plan." So pious a feeling would exist, and be circumscribed within its proper limits of reverential gratitude, while the legends of the Deluge continued to be preserved in their purity, and while the Divine preserver of Noah was remembered as the one god of his posterity. But when, by the confusion and dispersion at Babel, the true teachings of Enoch and Noah were lost, and idolatry or polytheism was substituted for the ancient faith, then Noah became a god, worshuped under different names in different countries, and the Ark was transformed into the Temple of the Deity. Eence arose those peculiar systems of initiations which, known under the name of the Arkite Rites, formed a part of the worship of the ancient world, and traces of which are to be found in almost all the old systems of religion.

It was in the six hundredth year of his age, that Noah, with his family, was released from the Ark. Grateful for his preservation, he erected an altar and prepared a sacrifice of thank-offeringa.to the Deity. A Masonic tradition says, that for this purpose he made use of that Stone of Foundation which he had discovered in the subterranean vault of Enoch, and which he had carried with him into the Ark. It was at this time that God made his Covenant with Noah, and promised him that the earth should never again be destroyed by a flood. Here, too, he received those commandments for the government of himself and his posterity which have been called "the seven precepts of the Noachidae." It is to be supposed that Noah and his immediate descendants continued to live for many years in the neighborhood of the mountain upon which the Ark had been thrown by the subsidence of the waters. There is indeed no evidence that the Patriarch ever removed from it. In the nine hundred and fiftieth year of his age he died, and, according to the tradition of the Orientalists, was buried in the land of Mesopotamia. During that period of his life which was subsequent to the Deluge, he continued to instruct his children in the great truths of religion. Hence, Freemasons are sometimes called Pvoachidae, or the sons of Noah, to designate them, in a peculiar manner, as the preservers of the sacred deposit of Masonic truth bequeathed to them by their great ancestor; and circumstances intimately connected with the transactions of the immediate descendants of the Patriarch are recorded in a Degree which has been adopted by the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite under the name of Patriarch Noachite.

The primitive teachings of the Patriarch, which were simple but comprehensive, continued to be preserved in the line of the Patriarchs and the Prophets to the days of Solomon, but were soon lost to the other descendants of Noah, by a circumstance to which we must now refer. After the death of Noah, his sons removed from the region of Mount Ararat, where, until then, they had resided, and "travelling from the East, found a plain in the land of Shinar, and dwelt there." Here they commenced the building of a lofty tower. This act seems to have been displeasing to God, for in consequence of it, He confounded their language so that one could not understand what another said; the result of which was that they separated and dispersed over the face of the earth in search of different dwelling-places. With the 106s of the original language, the great truths which that language had conveyed, disappeared from their minds. The worship of the one true God was abandoned. A multitude of deities began to be adored. Idolatry took the place of pure theism. And then arose the Arkite Rites, or the worship of Noah and the Ark, Sabaism, or the adoration of the stars, and other superstitious observances, in all of hich, however, the Priesthood, by their Mysteries or initiations into a kind of Spurious Freemasonry, preserved, among a multitude of errors, some faint allusions to the truth. and retained just so much light as to make their "darkness visible." Such are the Noachic traditions of Freemasonry, which, though if considered as mate rials of history, would be worth but little, yet have furnished valuable sources of symbolism, and in that way are full of wise instruction.

The writer of the Cooke MS. (1410/1450 A.D.) had before him an original which may have been written about 1350 A.D. The author of that original frankly acknowledges that many of his historical statements are taken from "the polycronicon," a sort of universal history, or omnium gatherum, in which were collected scraps and fragments of lore of many kinds, especially about the remote past, and without any attempt to distinguish genuine history from myths, legends, tales, fables. It was from such a polycilronicon that the writer of the Cooke original drew the story of Noah and the Deluge which the Cooke condenses into a paragraph beginning at line 290. According to the old tale thus taken from the polychronicon men knew that God would destroy the world out of vengeance, either by fire or by water; therefore in order to save them from destruction, men wrote the secrets of the Arts and Sciences on two "pilers of stone." When the vengeance came, it turned out to be by water as Noah had expected, and for 365 days he and his family lived in the Ark. With him mere his three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, and their wives. Many years afterwards, the "cronyelere telleth," the two pillars were found; Pythagoras found one, and Hermes the other.

The Old Charges (Masonic MS, Old Constitutions, etc., they also were called) which served as a charter for the first permanent Lodges of the Freemasons were held in great reverence; in them was this story of Noah and the pillars, and it is from this source, it is reasonable to believe, that pillar and column symbol' ism came to be used in Speculative Masonrv; and since the use of the Arts and Scienees traced directlv back to Noah's sons who recovered their use after the Deluge, practitioners of them were sometimes called "Sons of Noah." The first, or 1723, edition of the Book of Constitutions of the Mother Grand Lodge touches but lightly on the story of Noah, but in the second, or 1738. edition the whole account is changed, the Arl; itself is described as having been a Masonic masterpiece, and Noah and his three sons are described as "four Grand officers."." "And it came to pass as they journeyed from the East [the plains of Mount Ararat, where the Ark rested toward the West, they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and dwelt there as Noachidae, or Sons of Noah ..." In a footnote the author explains the word: "The first name of Masons, according to some old traditions."

What those "old traditions" were nobody knows because there is no evidence that Operative Freemasons called themselves by that name. But it was in some use prior to 1738, for in 1734 Lord Weyrnouth ordered a letter to be sent to the Prov. Grand Master at Calcutta in which this curious statement was included: "Providence has fixed your Lodge near those learn'd Indians that affect to be called Noachidae, the strict observance of his Precepts taught in those Parts by the Disciples of the great Zoroastres, the learned Archimagus of Bactria, a Grand Master of the Magians, whose religion is much preserved in India (which we have no concern about), and also many of the Rituals of the Ancient Fraternity used in his time, perhaps more than they are sensible of themselves. Sow if it was consistent with your other Business, to discover in those parts the Remains of Old Masonry and transmit them to us, we would be all thankful ...." (A. Q. C. XI, p. 35.)

If ever "Noachidae" was in use as a name for Masons it could not have been extensive, because the word (an ugly hybrid) is almost never met with in early Lodge AIinutes or Histories; it is probable that such small use of it as is encountered in American Lodges in the first half of the Nineteenth Century (it is now wholly obsolete) was directly owing to the popularity here of the writings of the Rev. George Oliver u ho never hesitated to give to fancies out of his own mind the same weight as the veridic records of history

There mere two reasons for the place of Noah and his sons in Masonic thought and traditions. It is obvious that the writer of the Cooke MS — or rather, the author of the original of which the Cooke is a copy — had an historical problem to solve: if the Deluge destroyed everything how were the Arts and Sciences, Geometry especially, preserved and recorded?

The story of the pillars and of the use made of them by Noah's sons, which, as was seen, he found ready-made in a polychronicon, was his solution. Second, the story of the sons of Noah had a point to it of value for Atasons who sought to make clear to their own minds the religious foundations of the Craft. If Masonry w as geometry and architecture it is as old as the world; if it existed in SToah's time it existed before Christianity, or Judaism either; and yet it now works in Christian lands; how could a "Christian" society have a pre-Christian origin? The answer was that under the separate religions is a ground, or fuuldament, or matrix of a universal religion which consists of a belief in God and Brotherhood among men, and righteousness. Oliver himself gives one of the clearest expressions of this idea in a paragraph of his in A Dectionary of Symbolical Masonry (New Yorl;; 1855; p. 190): "NOACHIDAE, Sons of Noah; the first name of Freemasons; whence we may observe that believing the world u as framed by one supreme God, and is governed by him; and loving and worshipping him; and honouring our parents; and loving our neighbor as ourselves; and being merciful even to brute beasts, is the oldest of all religions."

Not all the versions of the Old Charges contain the Noah story in the same form; the Graham MS. version which has so many details peculiar to itself, and is really an Old Catechism more than a version of the Old Charges, gives the Noah story in a different form and reads in it a different lesson; and it has the lost secrets discovered after the death of Noah rather than after the death of Niram. In his Ahiman Rezon, or Book of Constitutions, writing as Grand Secretary for the Antient Grand lodge of 1751, Laurence Dermott ridicules the whole story; but it is only as history that he ridicules it, not as symbolism, because (to judge by such written remains of it as have survived) the Antient Ritual connected the Great Pillars with the two "pilers" in the Cooke MS. Also, in both Ancient and Modern symbolism and in the Royal Arch, the Ark is used as an emblem. (This identification of the Ark with Noah's Ark may be a mistake on the part of Eighteenth Century Ritualists, because before 1717 Operative Gilds kept their papers in a "coffin"— which later reappears under the name "casket," "the Lodge," and "ark.")

Notes. In a medal struck by Henry Steel Lodge, No. 12, of Winchester, Va., on or about 1809, the emblems on the obverse side include not only the Ark, but also a Dove — and — what is more interesting —a Raven ! This same medal indicates that in Steel Lodge. the Royal Arch was not as yet disentangled from the Third Degree because on the reverse side of the same medal the Arch is surrounded by the emblem of that Degree. See American Freemason; Louisville, Ky.; Jan. 1, 1855; page 51.


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