The Lost Word.
by Estéban Trujillo de Gutiérrez
“Is it possible to discern any traces of kabbalah in the Hiramic legend? A cursory survey leads to a negative answer to the question: there are no obvious references to kabbalah such as, for instance, any speculations concerning the emanations of God (the theory of the Sephiroth deriving from the Sepher Yetzirah); no references to the feminine aspect of the Divine, the Shekinah; no speculations concerning numbers, gematria, inter alia.
Nevertheless, the chief aspect of the legend, the search for a lost word, offers an intriguing parallel with zoharic speculations concerning the loss of the proper way to pronounce the name of the Lord, the Tetragrammaton (YHVH). According to kabbalistic tradition, the proper mode of vocalization, or of pronouncing the Divine Name was a guarded secret that was reserved for the Holy of Holies within the temple of Jerusalem.
The second siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC that resulted in the destruction of Solomon’s temple and the beginning of the so-called Babylonian Captivity of the Jews that was to last until 538 BC, had the consequence that the High Priest no longer had the opportunity to pronounce the name of God. This subsequently led to the tragic consequence that the true way of pronouncing the holy name passed into oblivion.
Thus, we find in the zoharic tradition a search for the lost name, or rather the true way of pronouncing a known name. A. E. Waite (1857–1942), one of the most influential masonic and esoteric amateur scholars of the first half of the twentieth century, has written extensively on the parallel between the zoharic and the masonic search for something lost. Even though Waite lacked a proper academic training, accounting for his writing being “diffuse, often verbose, and peppered with archaisms,” his firm belief that the originators of masonry were versed in kabbalistic doctrine is worth considering:
“For myself I believe that the mystic hands which transformed Freemasonry were the hands of a Kabalistic section of Wardens of the Secret Tradition; that their work is especially traceable in the Craft Legend; and that although in its present form this Legend is much later and a work of the eighteenth century, it represents some part or reflection of those Zoharic preoccupations which began in England with Robert Fludd, Thomas Vaughan, were continued through Henry More, and were in evidence both in France and Britain before and about the period of the French Revolution.”
“For Waite the loss of the Master’s Word, which occurred at the moment of the murder of Hiram within the uncompleted Temple, and the subsequent masonic search for this lost word, has its parallel in the zoharic tradition. According to Waite, the early Christian kabbalists of the Renaissance held that the search for a lost name within the zoharic tradition, in reality was about finding Christ.
The originators of the masonic tradition, who had knowledge of the zoharic search, incorporated the theme of a search for something lost (in this case the Master’s Word) to represent the search for Christ. To Waite, Verbum Christus Est, the lost Master’s Word is Christ.
This claim would be unintelligible if not understood against a Kabbalistic background. The old Master’s Word was the name of the Lord, YHVH. According to Christian Kabbalistic tradition, the name of God conceals the name of Jesus, and thus it is “Kabbalistically” proved that Christ is the Savior. By including the Hebrew letter Shin, (which by its shape was considered by Renaissance kabbalists to allude to the trinity) in the name of the Lord, Yod He Vau He, the name of Jesus emerges YHSVH, Yeheshuah or Jeheshua.
This Kabbalistic proof has been held in high esteem among Christian kabbalists such as Pico della Mirandola (1463–1494) and Johannes Reuchlin (1455–1522).”
“According to the legend of Hiram, the old Master’s Word was lost at the occasion of Hiram’s murder, and a new Master’s Word was adopted, viz. Makbenak— believed to mean “the flesh falls from the bones.”
The old Master’s Word was the name of God in Hebrew, Tetragrammaton, pronounced as Jehovah, which is the same name that figures in the zoharic tradition. The notion that the old Master’s Word was lost at the time of Hiram’s death, is indeed perplexing, to say the least, since it is clearly stated in the legend itself that the old Word was YHVH.
Snoek has unraveled this knot by clearly showing that in the early English versions of the legend there was never a question of losing the Word, but that which was lost was rather the way of pronouncing the Word. According to the early versions of the legend the Master’s Word could only be pronounced by the three Masters together, viz. King Solomon, King Hiram, and Hiram Abiff.
This is the reason why Hiram could not, as opposed to would not, reveal the word. Since Hiram had not passed on his knowledge before being killed, the proper way of pronouncing the Master’s Word was lost.
We have thus two traditions, the zoharic and the masonic, where a central theme is the loss of the proper way of pronouncing the name of the Lord, YHVH. To me, it seems highly unlikely that the choice of the old masonic Master’s Word would have been made without the influence from Kabbalistic speculations on the name of God. Especially since the speculations concerning YHVH are not limited to the zoharic tradition, but are an important aspect of the Christian Kabbalah as well.”
–Henrik Bogdan, Western Esotericism and Rituals of Initiation, 2007, pg. 90-2.